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Charter schools planned for Carson City

TERI VANCE

Carson City may soon lose a private school, but gain a charter school.

Joan Lepas, owner of Educare School and Child Care, is applying for a license to start Carson Montessori Charter School.

“Our advisory school board wanted more accountability,” she explained. “We want less isolation and more support services. We have been watching Mary Pierczynski with the school district and we’ve been very impressed.”

Pierczynski will present the application to the school board during tonight’s meeting as well as an application for the Silver State Charter High School, an online high school based in Las Vegas for at-risk teens.

Members will vote on the applications at the Feb. 10 meeting. If the charter schools are approved, students who choose to attend will take with them the amount of money the state would have given the school district for that student.

This year, Nevada schools receive $4,873 for each pupil enrolled.

Lepas said she expects the 30 students already enrolled in her private school to make the transition into the charter school, which will be held at the same location on Lone Mountain Drive. She estimates her capacity to be 50 students and plans to accept applicants on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lepas began her teaching career as a nun at parochial schools and served as principal of Holy Cross School in Santa Cruz.

She later left the convent after 14 years and became principal of a public school but was dissatisfied.

“It was so difficult for me because it was such a culture shock,” she said.

She found Educare, which has been open since 1893, to be a better fit but still dreamed of running a Montessori school, based on the education system designed by Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and physician, in the early 1900s.

The method focuses on teaching students through using the senses to explore and manipulate materials around them and emphasizes working as a group.

“I’ve always been influenced by her teaching methods but I’ve never had the money to implement it,” Lepas said. “This will allow me to do it.”

Lepas called on help from the school district last year in writing a grant and received $5,000 to purchase materials.

She said she is looking forward to receiving more support from the district and providing a service in return.

“We’re providing an alternative for children who need smaller classrooms and need some hands-on learning,” she said. “It will be better for those who are gifted and talented, or who might be shy, or the ones who are struggling.”

And she cites a personal interest in creating the charter school.

“I’ve worked her for 10 years,” she said. “I want to leave the community with something wonderful when I retire.”

If approved, the charter schools would begin operation in August.

If You Go

What: Carson City School Board meeting

When: 7 tonight

Where: Community Center

Contact Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or at 881-1272.