Charter schools have become a trendy option in the Twin Cities.
"We've seen more schools in different geographical parts of the state," said Eugene Piccolo of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools. "Especially in the suburban areas."
Classroom sizes are usually smaller in charter schools and students often get individual attention.
"Most of our schools have a smaller student–teacher ratio than traditionally district schools," Piccolo said. "That's partly by design."
One advantage to charter schools is that they offer different curriculum. Students and parents can choose what they want to focus on. For instance, at Athlos Leadership Academy in Brooklyn Park, the school is geared toward athletics, physical activity and teaching leadership.
Meanwhile at Parnassus Preparatory School in Maple Grove, the curriculum is much different with an emphasis on foreign language, history, math and reading.
"What makes Parnassus unique is I think we have a very unique and very strong focus on college preparatory academics and classical programming," said Katherine Good, the academic community director at Parnassus.
Parnassus opened in 2011 with 360 students. Today enrollment is up to 1,000.
"We recently broke ground on a 74,000-square-foot expansion that will add a new gym and auditorium," Good said, "as well as 24 new classrooms."
Charter schools are open to anyone and have become attractive academic options to some students.
"If you want to go here you just have to apply," Good said. "If we receive more applications than we have spots available then we will hold a lottery. But you don't have to take a test. You don't have to meet any other requirements."
There are now 165 charter schools in Minnesota with a total enrollment of 54,000 students.The first charter school in the nation opened in 1992 in St. Paul and is still operating today.
Eric Nelson, reporting
March 3, 2017