One of the questions we hear most from prospective parents interested in applying to Harmony Public Schools is “I’ve been looking at schools near me, but I don’t understand – what is the difference between a charter school and an ISD public school?”
Texas public charter schools have grown exponentially in the past 25 years – both in Texas, and around the country – but we understand why many parents who grew up in a traditional independent school district setting themselves may still have questions.
That’s OK. We’ve got the answers to all of your biggest questions about charter schools.
So, what exactly is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school, and in many ways very similar to a traditional ISD school as you might think of one.
Charter schools do not charge tuition or application fees.
Charter schools accept every student who applies, as long as the school or grade level has not reached its enrollment capacity.
Charter school students take the same core classes and state tests (ex. STAAR) as ISD students.
Charter schools offer a full range of special services, including special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), Dyslexia, and 504.
However, what makes charter schools different is what makes us special. In a word, that difference is “choice.”
Way back in 1995, the Texas State Legislature decided that even though there are a lot of great schools in Texas, a one-size-fits-all approach to education wasn’t working for all families. Each child is unique: some with special gifts, others with special challenges, and all with special dreams for their futures.
To help better serve every Texas student, the Texas public charter school system was created to allow independent, education-based nonprofit organizations called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to open and operate free public schools for Texas students with the promise that they would provide a new school choice in education for local Texas families.
For some charter schools, that new choice might be a curriculum that focuses on dual-language learning. For others, it might be helping students who have dropped out of the traditional school setting reclaim their path to graduation.
As long as a student lives within its geographic boundaries of the school, any child can attend a Texas public charter school. However, unlike traditional ISD schools where students usually must attend whichever nearby campus they are “zoned” to, public charter school geographic boundaries are generally very large – often covering multiple communities or counties. These large geographic boundaries are another way Texas public charter schools offer Texas families a choice in their student’s education, and are unique from traditional ISDs. For example, rather than sending their child to an ISD campus near their home address, a parent may prefer for their child to attend one near a grandparent’s home, or the parent’s place of work. Or they may prefer to send their child to a campus that specializes in a specific curriculum, like STEM, or with a higher TEA accountability rating than their neighborhood ISD school. All of these are options with Texas public charter schools.
When and how can a student apply to a charter school?
A student can apply to a charter school at any time during the school year and be accepted if space is available. However, most Texas public charter schools also offer an open enrollment period each year specifically for prospective new students. During this time, families can learn more about their charter school options and enter their name for the enrollment lottery, which is held in the event there are more applicants than available seats. For Harmony Public Schools, open enrollment runs each November 1 through February 10.
No. By law, Texas public charter schools must be nonprofit entities. All funds received are used in the service of our students and school teams.
Do charter schools require uniforms?
That’s a decision that’s up to each charter school. At Harmony Public Schools, we do have a uniform policy. (Our students do get regular “free dress” days, though.)
Do charter schools offer the same types of programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools?
Charter schools offer almost all of the same programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools, though just like at an ISD school, the exact selection of extracurricular opportunities varies from campus-to-campus. Traditionally, charter schools specialize in offering a wide variety of academic-focused extracurriculars. For example, at Harmony Public Schools, some of our most popular extracurricular activities are our groundbreaking eSports clubs, LEGO robotics, rocketry, computer coding, and biomedicine. Our schools also compete in a wide variety of sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, and football.
What other differences are there between charter schools and traditional ISD schools?
There are a few other differences between Texas public charter schools and ISDs, but most don’t impact the day-to-day campus life of our students. For example, charter school boards consist of appointed volunteers with a unique interest in education, rather than private individuals who have chosen to run for election.
Prepare appropriate curriculum and annual plan to submit to the administration for approval. Teach secondary school students in the subject of Computer; apply the curriculum as prepared and approved; keep attendance records; assign lessons; administer tests to evaluate students’ progress; and maintain discipline in the classroom. Create lesson plans, correct homework, and evaluate teacher-made tests. Prepare tests to evaluate students’ progress, record the results, and issue reports to inform parents of progress. Contact parents to offer positive reinforcement regarding social and academic achievements the students make.
Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or related field and 1 year of experience as Computer Teacher at middle or high school level. Teaching experience must be full-time as a teacher of record (not substitute) at general education setting (not special population).
Prepare appropriate curriculum and annual plan to submit to the administration for approval. Teach science courses to secondary school students; apply the curriculum as prepared and approved; keep attendance records; assign lessons; administer tests to evaluate students’ progress; and maintain discipline in the classroom. Create lesson plans, correct homework, and evaluate teacher-made tests. Prepare tests to evaluate students’ progress, record the results, and issue reports to inform parents of progress. Contact parents to offer positive reinforcement regarding social and academic achievement the students make.
Bachelor’s degree in Science Education or any subfield of natural science and 1 year of experience as Science Teacher at middle or high school level. Teaching experience must be full-time as a teacher of record (not substitute) at general education setting (not special population).
Prepare appropriate curriculum and annual plan to submit to the administration for approval. Teach secondary school students in the subject of Mathematics; apply the curriculum as prepared and approved; keep attendance records; assign lessons; administer tests to evaluate students’ progress; and maintain discipline in the classroom. Create lesson plans, correct homework, and evaluate teacher-made tests. Prepare tests to evaluate students’ progress, record the results, and issue reports to inform parents of progress. Contact parents to offer positive reinforcement regarding social and academic achievements the students make.
Bachelor’s degree in Math or Math Education and 1 year of experience as Math Teacher at middle or high school level. Teaching experience must be full-time as a teacher of record (not substitute) at general education setting (not special population).
How to Apply:
Mail resumes to:
Attn: HR Dept, Harmony Public Schools
9321 W Sam Houston Pkwy S Houston, TX 77099
Refer to Ad#SY
This year every child at Harmony Public Schools is eligible to receive free lunch and breakfast each day from our child nutrition team.
However, Harmony would like to remind parents of the need to still submit one of our critical Harmony forms instead of the application normally associated with qualifying for Free & Reduced Price Meal Programs.
Each year, Harmony Public Schools is required to collect and report the socioeconomic status of each student to the Texas Education Agency for purposes of the annual state accountability ratings and for federal reporting. The data collected is used by educational agencies to determine funding which may be used for a variety of programs and educational opportunities.
Today, we are asking parents to please complete the online form “Household Income Information” in Skyward. Upon login to Skyward, this form is accessible from the main screen. If you have any questions, please contact the Child Nutrition Assistant at your child’s school.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott officially signed into law a new education funding bill that will allow public schools like ours to offer full virtual learning to up to 10 percent of our student body enrolled in Grades K-12.
Under the law, to be eligible to participate and remain in virtual learning, students must meet all of the following criteria:
Students must have passed the most recent STAAR exams (if applicable to grade level). If student did not take STAAR, NWEA grade-level proficiency is required, AND;
Students must have earned a “C” grade of higher in “foundation curriculum” courses taken virtually or remotely in the previous school year (ex. Math, reading), AND;
Students must have no more than 10% unexcused absences during the previous school year, and maintain less than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period.
Recently, we asked families to log into Skyward to let us know if they prefer for their child to attend virtual learning or continue in-person learning on campus. The deadline to make your selection is Wednesday September 15, 2021. For those who select “Virtual Learning,” we will cross-checking their student records to determine their eligibility status. Those selected will be notified by their home campus soon and given further directions on how to begin online learning.
For those not selected for virtual learning or who wish to remain in-person learning from campus, Harmony will continue to offer its “remote conferencing” option on an as-needed basis. Under this program, students can learn from home for up to 20 instructional days if they have a pre-existing medical condition, or are forced to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. Additional days may be granted upon TEA approval with required documentation.
Harmony thanks you for your ongoing support and patience as the situation regarding virtual learning unfolded these past few weeks. Whether your student is attending virtual or in-person, we look forward to a great school year with you and your family.
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La semana pasada, el gobernador Greg Abbott promulgó oficialmente una nueva ley de financiación de la educación que permitirá a las escuelas públicas como la nuestra ofrecer aprendizaje virtual completo para hasta el 10 por ciento de nuestros estudiantes.
En consecuencia, Harmony Public Schools se complace en anunciar que comenzará a ofrecer una opción de aprendizaje virtual a partir del lunes 4 de octubre para los estudiantes elegibles, según lo permitan los límites de inscripción.
Según la ley, para ser elegible para participar y permanecer en el aprendizaje virtual, los estudiantes deben cumplir con todos los siguientes criterios:
Los estudiantes deben haber aprobado los exámenes STAAR más recientes (si corresponde al nivel de grado). Si el estudiante no hizo STAAR, se requiere competencia de nivel de grado de NWEA, Y;
Los estudiantes deben haber obtenido una calificación “C” o superior en los cursos del “plan de estudios básico” hechos de forma virtual o remota en el año escolar anterior (por ejemplo, matemáticas, lectura), Y;
Los estudiantes no deben tener más del 10% de ausencias injustificadas durante el año escolar anterior y mantener menos de 10 ausencias injustificadas en un período de seis meses.
Recientemente, les pedimos a las familias que inicien sesión en Skyward para informarnos si prefieren que su hijo asista al aprendizaje virtual o que continúe con el aprendizaje presencial en el campus. La fecha límite para hacer su selección es el miércoles 15 de septiembre de 2021. Para aquellos que seleccionen “Aprendizaje virtual”, verificaremos sus registros de estudiantes para determinar su estado de elegibilidad. Los seleccionados serán notificados por su campus de origen pronto y se les dará más instrucciones sobre cómo comenzar el aprendizaje en línea.
Para aquellos que no hayan sido seleccionados para el aprendizaje virtual o que deseen seguir aprendiendo de manera presencial desde el campus, Harmony continuará ofreciendo su opción de “conferencias remotas” según sea necesario. Bajo este programa, los estudiantes pueden aprender desde casa durante hasta 20 días de instrucción si tienen una afección médica preexistente o si se ven obligados a ponerse en cuarentena debido a un diagnóstico positivo o exposición a la COVID-19. Se pueden otorgar días adicionales con la aprobación de la TEA con la documentación requerida.
Gracias por su continuo apoyo y paciencia mientras se desarrolló el aprendizaje virtual estas últimas semanas. Ya sea que su estudiante asista virtual o presencialmente, esperamos tener un gran año escolar con usted y su familia.
Today, we would like to share some important news regarding a potential virtual learning option at your child’s school.
This weekend, a new bill to fund virtual learning in Texas public schools like Harmony cleared a major hurdle in the Texas Legislature. In its current form, schools such as Harmony Public Schools would be allowed to provide virtual learning for up to 10 percent of its student body throughout the remainder of the school year.
While the bill has not received final approval and specific details may change before being signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, it now appears very likely that schools like ours will be able to offer virtual learning in some form to students in the near future and we are looking forward to offering comprehensive virtual learning to our student population during 2021-2022 school year.
Currently, in your child’s Skyward account is a form asking your family’s interest in virtual learning. We ask that you please complete this virtual learning application form as soon as you are able. While we may not be able to accommodate every request due to potential new legal restrictions on the number of students who can participate, by understanding your preference we will be able to more quickly assign students to virtual learning should it become an option.
We will continue to share important updates with you as new information becomes available.
Estimadas familias de Harmony,
Hoy, no nos gustaría compartie algunas noticias importantes sobre una posible opción de aprendizaje virtual en la escuela de sus hijos. Este fin de semana, un nuevo proyecto de ley para financiar el aprendizaje virtual en escuelas públicas de Texas como Harmony eliminó un obstáculo importante en la Legislatura de Texas. En su forma actual, las Escuelas Públicas de Harmony podrían proporcionar aprendizaje virtual para hasta el 10 por ciento de su cuerpo estudiantil durante el resto del año escolar.
Aunque el proyecto no ha recibido la aprobación final y unos detalles específicos pueden cambiar antes de set convertida en lay por en gobernador, Greg Abbott, ahora parece muy probable que las escuelas como la nuestra puedan ofrecer aprendizaje virtual de alguna forma a los estudiantes en un futuro cercano y esperamos ofrecer un aprendizaje virtual integral a nuestra población estudiantil durante la escuela 2021-2022 año.
Actualmente, en la cuenta de Skyward de si hijo o hija hay un formulario que pregunta el interés de su familia en el aprendizaje virtual. Le pedimos que complete este formulario de solicitud de aprendizaje virtual tan pronto como pueda. Si bien es posible que no podamos atender todas las solicitudes debido a posibles nuevas restricciones legales sobre la cantidad de estudiantes que pueden participar, al comprender su preferencia, podremos asignar estudiantes más rápidamente al aprendizaje virtual si se convierte en una opción.
Continuaremos compartiendo actualizaciones importantes con usted a medida que haya nueva información disponible.
On Saturday, the HPS executive board approved a recommendation allowing all regular employees 10 additional days of paid leave should they test positive for COVID-19 or be asked to quarantine due to close contact with another COVID-19 positive individual.
The benefit is available retroactively to August 2 (first day of 2021-22 school year), and extends through December 31, 2021.
Employees with additional questions or who need to request leave for any purpose should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
From its beginning, Harmony Public Schools has held onto two strong beliefs.
First, that by focusing on STEM, we could help our students better understand their connection to the world around them, and prepare them to help tackle the challenges of our collective future.
Second, that schools work best when parents, teachers, and school leaders are all working together to do what’s best for our students.
Few issues have put those two core beliefs – following science, and doing what’s best for kids – into sharper focus than the issue of protective face masks at our schools.
At Harmony, we firmly believe the preponderance of credible medical evidence proves that masks are a simple and effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, communities, and homes. This is why we frequently and publicly advocate for their use by students and team members – because it’s good science, and it’s what is best for kids.
Today, we would like to share a new Harmony Public Schools mask policy that we believe is strongly based on science and student safety, while also taking into account the legitimate reasons some families may prefer for their child not to wear a mask. We also believe this policy can remain consistent regardless of the outcome of current legal decisions related to mask “mandates” in schools.
Harmony Student Mask Policy
All Harmony staff members are asked to wear a mask on campus, unless there are medical, religious or other specific reasons that is not possible.
All Harmony Public Schools students are asked to wear masks on campus. If a student does not have a mask, one will be provided.
The parents of children who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other specific issues, including difficulty breathing while wearing a mask, may submit a formal exemption request on Skyward. (This is consistent with our long-standing student Dress Code exemption policy, which can be found on page 22 of the HPS Student & Parent Handbook).
We are asking that all employees, students, parents and visitors voluntarily comply with this mask policy.
When it comes to masks, there may be no perfect policy for all families. Masks have become one of the more hotly debated issues of our time. The one thing we can all agree on, though, is that we all look forward to a day when no one needs to wear a mask.
In the late spring and early summer, many of us believed that day was close. Unfortunately, it’s not quite here, yet. But by working together, we will get there – hopefully soon.
For now, we’re asking for Harmony to mask up.
It’s good science, and it’s what is best for kids.