Frequently Asked Questions and Enrollment Information

+ What is a Charter School?

A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract with the state detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment. Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. Every five years, charter schools undergo a charter renewal process. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed. Charters serve all students, including those with special needs and English language learners.

+ Are Charter Schools Public and Free?

Yes. As public schools, charter schools are tuition-free. They are funded according to enrollment levels and receive public funds from the state on a per pupil basis. Charter schools are entitled to federal funding for which their students are eligible, such as Title I and Special Education monies.

+ How long has Benjamin Banneker Charter School been in existence?

The 2018-2019 School Year is our 23rd year of operation, and our enrollment has gone from 180 to 350 students. School hours are from 8-3. Students can be dropped off as early as 7:30.

+ What makes your school different?

We are a STEM school. Our computing device to student ratio is less than 2:1. We have a 1:1 laptop program in grades 3-6 (which they get to take with them after 6th grade). Our school has specialists for Music, Art, PE, Library, and Technology from Kindergarten through 6th grade. We also have a full-time reading tutor on staff. We are a tuition-free public charter school.

+ When is the application period?

We can take applications all year. Applications must be in the day before a lottery is held. Our next lottery will be held on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 for the 19-18 school year. Any application received after March 13, 2019, will go into the next lottery held in March of 2020.

+ How are the children picked to get into the school?

Every year there is a lottery. Children are added to the waitlist by number after siblings and Cambridge children have been pulled in. If your child is asked in and does not accept the offered seat, your child will be taken off the list.

+ Non Discrimination

Benjamin Bannmeker does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, homelessness, special needs, English language proficiency or foreign language proficiency, athletic ability or prior academic achievement.

Any and all information requested in the Application is not intended, and will not be used, to discriminate.

+ ADMISSIONS CRITERIA

Charter schools are public schools and are therefore open to all Massachusetts students on a space available basis. This means that the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, proficiency in the English language or in a foreign language, or prior academic achievement when recruiting or admitting students. Moreover, Banneker may not set admissions criteria that are intended to discriminate or that have the effect of discriminating based upon any of these characteristics. M.G.L. c. 71, § 89(m); 603 CMR 1.05(2)

The Banneker has an interest in making sure that all prospective students and their families understand the mission and focus of the school and are interested in being a part of the school community. Banneker is a K-6 School. A 1-year kindergarten student must be 5 by October 1st of the school year applying. A two-year kindergarten student must be 4 by March 31, which would put the child at 4.5 at the start of the school year. The deadline for accepting applications is the day before the Lottery, which is held on the second Wednesday in March. Since we are a public charter school, the only reasons a student would not be eligible would be their age or they are not a Massachusetts resident. All grades, K-6, are accepted throughout the year.

+ Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School requires:

  1. Candidates for admission to apply for the grade immediately following their current grade and to successfully complete that grade to be admitted. Must be a Mass resident at the time they submit an application and while they are enrolled and while attending.
  2. That primary preference for admission is given to siblings of students currently attending the school in accordance with Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regulations.
  3. That secondary preference for admission is given to students who are residents of Cambridge at the time that they are offered admission to the school, they must have three proofs of residence, examples of what is needed is sent home with the enrollment packet, unless the child is homeless.

+ What are my chances of getting into the school?

The best chance to get in is applying for pre-K, kindergarten or first grade. But you can apply for all of our grades up to 5th in case we get openings. We generally get a few each year.

+ Describe the ENROLLMENT PROCESS

  1. The first step in enrolling is to fill out an application. You can fill out our easy application on the website. Filling it out only takes 5 to 10 minutes. You need information about your student, their guardians and the grades you are applying for.
  2. If we receives more applicants than we have available seats for, the school will conduct a lottery which will be held at the Banneker administration building, 35 Middlessex Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140. The school will publicizing the date and time with reasonable notice of at least one week before the lottery date. 603 CMR 1.09(9).
  3. Offer letters are mailed to those applicants that have valid applications that are are accepted at the lottery.
  4. The school will set a final date for students to accept offers of enrollment.
  5. Any applications submitted after the lottery date will be accepted for a secondary lottery enrollment period between April 1 and August 30, if needed. We generally have one lottery per year however. If there is no secondary lottery, applications received after the 1st lottery will be placed in the pool for applications for the following year.
  6. The Banneker will publicize all lottery enrollment deadlines with reasonable public notice of at least one month (603 CMR 1.05(8). After the application deadline passes, the Banneker will divide all applications into three categories: siblings, residents, and non residents.

+ Do some students have preference for acceptance?

Yes preference for addmission is as follows:

  1. Siblings – Students who share a common parent, either biologically or legally through adoption. Whether the children reside in the same household has no bearing on determining if the children are siblings for purposes of a sibling preference. Children who live in separate households may be siblings and those that live in the same household may not be. If siblings are placed in foster homes and one of them enrolls in the charter school, then the siblings of that student are entitled to admission preference. Foster children are not considered siblings of other children in the foster home unless they share a common parent. Sibling Status does not include: children who live in the same household but do not share a common biological or legal parent; siblings and children of aluni/ae; siblings of applicants who have been accepted for admission but are not yet attending. Must show a birth certificate to prove common parent.
  2. Residents - Students who live in the city, or town in which the charter school is located at the time of the lottery. Residents enrolled in district, charter, private, or parochial schools get equal preference for Commonwealth charter schools. Residency is determined by where the child actually lives, irrespective of guardianship custody and domicile.
  3. Non-Residents – Are students who live in Massachusetts but outside the city of Cambridge. For regional charter schools, non-resident students are those students who live outside of the school districts specified in the school’s charter. All applicants must be residents of Massachusetts to apply, to enroll, and to attend, our charter school.
  4. Local Caps - Some cities and towns have restrictions on the number of students that can apply and be accepted to charter schools. If there is a restriction you may not be allowed to enroll.

+ What is the LOTTERY?

If there are more eligible applicants in any of the categories (“Siblings”, "Residents" or “Non-Residents”) than there are spaces available, the Banneker must hold a lottery to determine which applicants will receive an offer of admission. 603 CMR 1.05(6)(a) and (c). The school must give reasonable public notice of the lottery at least one week before the lottery date. Charter schools must have a neutral party randomly draw the names of all students who submitted applications before the deadline. After the available slots are filled, while taking into consideration the Growth Plan for Boston Residents, the individual shall keep drawing the names of the remaining applicants in each category and place them on a waiting list in the order they are drawn. If a parent requests that their child’s name not be publically announced, we can assign your child a number. The parent will be informed of the number at the lottery. At the time of the lottery, we will know the number of K students that will be invited in, other grades are as seats become available.

+ Do you have a waitlist?

Yes, we have an active waitlist. Our waitlist is good for one year. At the end of any given year, the waitlist for that year is discarded and a new one will start the next year. If your child did not get in during our last lottery, you would need to reapply.

+ How does my child get on the waitlist?

Children from surrounding towns need to have been in a lottery to get on the waitlist. We have a lottery once a year in March.

+ Details on the WAITING LIST

At the end of each school year, the waitlist will be eliminated and the new waitlist will consist of students that have gone into the lottery for an upcoming school year. At the end of each school year students that did not get in would need to apply for the next school year if interested. Siblings are the first to be admitted; then “Resident” students; then “Non-residents” students. There is one exception, if a space became available and the enrollment of a student from the waiting list would cause his or her sending district to exceed the net school spending cap, the charter school should skip over that student but keep them on the waiting list. If that student on the waiting list is a sibling of a student currently enrolled at the charter school, the school may enroll that student and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will pay the tuition to the charter school, subject to state appropriations. If a student declines an offer of admission, that student is taken off the wait list and the next child on the waiting list for that grade will be called, keeping in mind the current status of enrollment preferences and the Growth Plan for Boston Residents, until the vacant seat is filled. No student may be admitted ahead of other eligible students who were previously placed on a waiting list during a prior enrollment process, except in cases where enrollment preference change of as described in 603 CMR 1.05(10)(b). Accurate records containing students’ names (first, middle, last), dates of birth, cities or towns of residence, and grade levels are kept for those students remaining on the waitlist.

+ Will I get enrollment confirmation?

Families will be notified by mail of their admission status (accepted or placement on waiting list). All families, that are accepted into the school, will receive notification and must reply by the three-week timeline. If a student is selected off of the waiting list and if the family is notified after June 15th, or before August 15th, the family has fifteen days to confirm enrollment. If the family is notified after August 15th, the family will have three days to confirm enrollment. Students do not take exams before being admitted to the school and we offer no financial incentives to recruit students.

+ Can my child come to your school if he or she doesn't live in Cambridge??

We accept siblings of current Banneker students first. Secondly, we accept Cambridge students. Thirdly, we accept students from other towns.

+ What age does my child have to be to enter kindergarten for the 2018-2019 school year?

To become a two-year K student, your child would need to be 4 by March 31, 2019. To become a one-year K student, your child would need to be 5 by October 1, 2019. Therefore, a child must be 6 by October 1, 2019 to become a first grader and so on.

+ If my child did not receive a seat last year, do I need to fill out the Application again?

Yes. Applications need to be submitted on an annual basis, and families seeking a charter school for their student will need to reapply each year by the stated deadline to be entered into a school’s lottery process.

+ Do you have a Special Education department?

Yes, we have a full staff of special education teachers and a special education coordinator. We also have a counselor, an OT, ELL, as well as a speech and language therapist on staff.

+ On what is the school's curriculum based?

Our curriculum is guided by the Massachusetts Frameworks.

+ What are classrooms like ?

The classrooms range in size from 20-25 students with an associate teacher in every class.

+ Do you have an afterschool program?

Yes, we have an afterschool program on site that runs from 3-6pm.

+ Do you provide transportation for students?

Yes, we offer bussing for Cambridge students who are not within walking distance. We also offer bussing for Boston students and a North Shore bus starting in Chelsea. There is no charge for busing. We also have 3 stops on Rindge Ave, which is on our Local Orange Bus routes. New this year will be a bus stop at Walden Sq., Cambridge.

+ Are students provided with lunch and breakfast?

We serve breakfast and lunch free to all students.

+ Do you have a Dress Code?

Yes, all students wear khaki bottoms and maroon tops which can be purchased on the jbedwarduniforms.com website.

+ What if the Benjamin Banneker SCHOOL MISSION?

The Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School is an urban K1-6 Science and Technology school, committed to excellence in education. We believe all students can excel as learners and citizens when provided a rich, supportive, and stimulating educational environment. The BBCPS is the inspiration of concerned community leaders, parents, and educators, with the common vision and purpose of providing all Cambridge and local youth, regardless of race, culture, language, or socioeconomic status, with a high-quality education.

+ What is the Benjamin Banneker VISION?

The Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School will be known as a school that is changing the face of public education. It will be an example of educational excellence and dignity. Banneker students will excel in all academic and non-academic areas, and be well prepared for high school and beyond. They will respect themselves, their classmates, school, community, and the value of education.

All members of the Banneker community will support each other in pursuit of these common goals. We will exhibit commitment, compassion, patience, and perseverance. We will strive to meet the needs of each student and we will challenge all students – expecting achievement and celebrating success when our students soar.

+ Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School will not:

  1. Give preferences to children of staff members or Board members;
  2. Give preference to siblings of students accepted to the school but not yet attending; or
  3. Make statements in meetings intended to discourage, or that have the effect of discouraging, parents/guardians of students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, or any other protected group of students from submitting an application to the school.

+ OUTREACH

The Banneker provides information about the school to those who are interested throughout the year. The application period for all grades is advertised in local papers, daycares, and flyers around Cambridge. The school will have and implement a student recruitment and retention plan as outlined in MGL Chapter 71, Section 89(f) and 603 CMR 1.05(1). Our website has forms, handbooks, annual reports, etc on the site along with information around the services we provide.

The Banneker does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, proficiency in English language or foreign language, or prior academic achievement. Attendance of Orientation Sessions is strongly encouraged but not required for students and their families.

+ STUDENT STOPS ATTENDING BANNEKER AND VACANCIES

When a student stops attending the school for any reason, the school will attempt to fill vacant seats up to February 15th, in grades K-3. As spaces become available during the school year, the Banneker may repeat the enrollment process to fill these openings and to meet the requirements of G.L. c. 70, § 89(n). If a student withdraws they would need to reapply for admittance.

+ SECONDARY LOTTERY

The Banneker may hold a second lottery under the following conditions:

  1. If at the time of the lottery the school has received fewer enrollment forms than it has spaces available and there is no one on the waitlist for that particular grade. No student may be admitted ahead of other eligible students who were previously placed on a waitlist during a prior enrollment process, except in cases where enrollment preferences change or as described in 603 CMR 1.05(10)(b). 603 CMR 1.05(8).

+ THIRD PARTY REQUEST

Upon request, the school will provide the names and addresses of students to a third-party mail house for mailings unless the parent requests that the school withhold their child’s information, which is within the application form. (M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 89(g)).

+ STUDENT RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION PLAN

Banneker implements a student recruitment and retention plan as outlined in our “2015” Annual Report, please see our website www.banneker.org.

+ DIVERSE LEARNERS

Students with diverse learning needs may attend the Banneker and will receive accommodations and support services for SPED and English language learners. A pamphlet explaining their rights is sent home once a year.

+ Rights of Students with Diverse Learning Needs

Students with diverse learning needs (including students who may have disabilities, require special education services, or are English Language learners) have the right to to receive appropriate accommodations and support services. Information regarding the availability of services for students is on our school’s website. This notice will be made available in the native language of the parents or guardians.

+ BBCPS Growth Plan

Banneker has state-imposed limitations on the number of students who can attend the charter school from a particular city or town. The school is limited to taking no more than 20% of its students from Boston by FY2020. As of June 2015, since Banneker's student body is made up of more than 20% students from Boston, unfortunately, Banneker will be limiting our enrollment of new applicants who are residents of Boston to no more than 15% of the spaces available each year, with the exception of siblings of a student currently attending BBCPS. This means that Boston students may remain on the waitlist while other students remain eligible for admission, until there are no more than 20% resident students from Boston by FY2020. The total number of students attending a charter school in a given school year cannot exceed the total number of students in the school’s pre-enrollment report submitted to the Department in the previous spring in accordance with 603 CMR 1.08(5) and the total number of students specified in the growth plan in the school’s charter.