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Plans moving ahead to open charter school

Adel Sefrioui is hoping to open a new public charter school in Kent.

The Excel Public Charter School, under consideration with 18 other charters, would take state funding but operate independently of the Kent School District. Assuming the proposal is approved by the Washington Charter School Commission, it will be up and running by the 2015-2016 school year.

Charter schools, first legislated in 1991 in Minnesota, provide more autonomy and accountability for student success. Their goals are to provide alternative education practices to those mandated by state and federal institutions. They are publicly funded and tuition-free, but governed by nonprofit organizations not affiliated with the government bodies. This funding method provides more flexibility than public school systems which have several agencies at the local, state, and federal levels to answer to.

Washington voters narrowly approved the creation of 40 charter schools over a five-year period in the 2012 election.

Sefrioui, the son of a Moroccan father and Iranian mother, said that his parents instilled the importance of education early on.

"Something that they both instilled in me at a young age," he said, "was that education could be a great equalizer in society."

Among the differences between public schools and the Excel Charter School will be a longer school day and year, Sefrioui said. He hopes to bring the school day out to nine hours and expand the days that the school is open.

Traditional public school days run for 180 days of the year, while he hopes to have Excel open for 193 days. Doing so will allow the school to incorporate more creative electives, he said, such as computer programing and biotechnology classes.

It will also allow students in seventh and eighth grade more time to study subjects so that they can move into accelerated classes when they reach high school grades.

"With a nine-hour school day they double time for English, math instruction," Sefrioui said. "It allows them to catch students up."

Should Excel be approved, Sefrioui hopes to focus more intensely on STEM subjects at the school. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have been sorely lacking in the U.S. According to a Washington Business Roundtable study, there are 25,000 unfilled jobs in the state, 80 percent of which are STEM related. It is expected that by 2017, that number will balloon to 50,000 and 90 percent.

While this Sefrioui is also expanding the scope of the student's educations to encourage traits that will help them succeed in college and their careers. He said that this character building is a core part of the holistic education that will develop traits like curiosity and perseverance.

Excel's application will be available for public viewing in the next few weeks. The Charter School Commission has the power to approve eight of the schools, so with the right application and a little luck, Kent might see another alternative for educating its diverse population.

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