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July 14, 2013

Rocketship pushes to enter Milwaukee school orbit

Erin Richards:

t's midmorning on a Saturday in June when Will Reichardt unlocks the front door of a south side office and grabs the day's supplies: clipboard, school fliers in Spanish and English, some enrollment applications.

Just in case.

Then Reichardt drives his minivan to the local laundromats, where he circles dryers and washers and toddlers and parents, asking each family, in Spanish, to consider the opportunities at a new school opening in August called Rocketship.

A newcomer to Milwaukee, Rocketship Education is a nonprofit elementary charter-school network based in San Jose, Calif., that's attracting national attention for its low-cost schools that blend traditional instruction with technological intervention.

Rocketship's first national expansion site is Southside Community Prep, a new school at 3003 W. Cleveland Ave. which will operate under a special charter with the City of Milwaukee. If successful, Rocketship may open up to eight schools serving up to 4,000 children in Milwaukee.

The organization's mission is to eliminate the achievement gap by rapidly replicating schools that perform better and cost less than local options. It intends to grow from 3,800 students in California to 25,000 students in six states by 2018.

In a decade, leaders estimate, they could be educating 200,000 students in 30 cities.

But in Milwaukee, Rocketship is an unknown, and the hurdles to recruiting students in a highly competitive school landscape have it scrambling to enroll at least 300 students by an Aug. 19 start date -- now four weeks away.

Related: A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school last year.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 14, 2013 4:35 AM
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