Charter renewed for Madrone Trail school

Three years after Medford's first public charter school was founded to offer a Waldorf alternative, Madrone Trail Public Charter School's charter has been renewed.

The renewal by the Medford School Board Tuesday ushers in another three years for the charter school of about 90 students in grades K-5 and possibly a new location. The school plans to expand by one grade each year until it reaches the eighth grade. Next year, the school will inaugurate its first fifth-grade class.

Gesine Abraham, a Madrone Trail board member, said Madrone Trail school leaders and the district negotiated the contract for three months.

Charter school leaders had hoped to increase the percentage of per-pupil funding it receives from the state, which it has to share with its sponsor, the Medford School District, Abraham said. Madrone Trail receives 80 percent of the per-pupil funding provided by the state, while the Medford district collects 20 percent of it.

During the past three months, Madrone Trail leaders had pushed hard for their percentage to grow to 95 percent, arguing that the district's expenses to oversee the charter school and administrative costs only equaled 5 percent of the funding. However, the district adamantly declined, citing the current economic troubles and an understanding at the school's founding that the district would receive 20 percent of the funding.

Hence, Madrone Trail's funding will remain at the 80-percent level, except for kindergartners who will receive 95 percent of the funding because of extra expenses related to Waldorf kindergarten programs.

The school continues to negotiate with the district to purchase the old West Side School, 3070 Ross Lane.

This school year, Madrone Trail operated out of lease space at 129 N. Oakdale. School leaders have had their eye on West Side since 2007 when the school was founded because of its rural location.

Charter schools are largely autonomous, but under charter contracts have to show varying measures of quality control to their sponsoring district, in this case, the Medford district. Madrone Trail, for example, gives its students the same academic assessments as other Medford schools do.

The idea behind charter schools is to give alternative education choices to parents and to promote instructional innovation. In the state of Oregon, anyone can attend a charter school for free regardless of which school district they live in.

Madrone Trail's instructional program focuses on Waldorf methods, which integrates nature, art, music and physical activity with academics. Students also learn a second language at the school, something which is not available at any other Medford elementary school.

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Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

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