School FAQs

School Frequently Asked Questions

What is a charter school?
What is Damar Charter Academy?
When did Damar Academy Charter School open?
Who would be Damar Charter Academy’s sponsor, and what is the sponsor’s role?
How will Damar Charter Academy differ from the existing Damar Academy?
Does Damar Charter Academy operate on a year-round schedule?
How big will Damar Charter Academy be?
How will Damar Charter Academy be funded?
How will Damar Charter Academy be governed?
Why is the Damar Charter Academy a good idea?
Is there strong parent demand and community support for this kind of school?
Are there other schools that specialize in serving students with disabilities?
Will students at Damar Charter Academy have interactions with more typically developing students?
Will Damar Charter Academy students be “segregated”?
Are there any legal considerations for this kind of a school?
Why does Damar want to do this?

What is a charter school?
A charter school is a form of public school organized under an agreement — a “charter” — with one or more “sponsors.” The laws creating charter schools allow parents and guardians to choose the school they believe is best for their child. Charter schools offer programs and curricula addressing different needs, approaches and subject areas. While they are free from some regulations that apply to traditional public schools, public charter schools still must meet the state’s education standards, must employ licensed teachers (or teachers who are in the process of obtaining a license), must have open enrollment policies and cannot discriminate in any way.

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What is Damar Charter Academy?
Damar Charter Academy is Indiana’s first public charter school focusing on serving the needs of children with intellectual and developmental challenges like mental retardation and autism, and related behavioral challenges. The school will serve students in Kindergarten through Grade 12.

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When will Damar Academy Charter School open?
August 17, 2011.

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Where will Damar Charter Academy be located?
Damar Charter Academy is currently located on the Damar campus in some of the space currently used by Damar Academy, and will share some campus facilities and amenities with Damar Academy, including the cafeteria, gymnasium and other recreational facilities. In January 2013 the Damar Charter Academy will be moving to 5125 Decatur Blvd., Suite D, Indianapolis, In 46241.

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Who would be Damar Charter Academy’s sponsor, and what is the sponsor’s role?
The Mayor of Indianapolis will be Damar Charter Academy’s sponsor. In that role, the Mayor’s Office is responsible for making sure Damar Charter Academy adheres to its charter, which describes the school’s mission and objectives, outlines how it intends to meet its objectives, and sets goals and standards for the operations of the school.

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How will Damar Charter Academy differ from the existing Damar Academy?
The greatest difference is the fact that Damar Academy is a private school, while Damar Charter Academy will be a public school under the charter school laws in Indiana. Because it will be a public school, Damar Charter Academy will receive public funding, be free of charge to students, and allow parents and guardians to choose the setting they believe is best for their child. As a private school, Damar Academy cannot offer families this option.

Perhaps the most tangible difference between the schools will be the schedule. The Damar Charter Academy will operate on a year-round school calendar. In addition, Damar Charter Academy will have separate leadership. Other differences, such as curriculum and activities, will be less obvious.

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Does Damar Charter Academy operate on a year-round schedule?
Our research and review of best practices convinced us that a year-round schedule will be the most effective for helping the students we expect to attend Damar Charter Academy. The students will attend school the 180 days required by Indiana state law, but the timing and length of their school breaks would be different from Damar Academy.

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How big will Damar Charter Academy be?
The Damar Charter Academy will open with a maximum of 150 students. The school is expected to grow steadily for its first few years, reaching a maximum enrollment of about 300 students by 2015.

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How will Damar Charter Academy be funded?
Damar Charter Academy can be funded by a variety of sources, including federal grants, state tuition support, local support and private foundation funding. The school will receive state tuition support in the same way that other public schools do (based on the number of students), as well as financial backing and management from Damar Services, Inc.

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How is Damar Charter Academy be governed?
Like other Indiana public charter schools, Damar Charter Academy has established an independent nine-member Board of Directors that oversees governance and operations. The school also must adhere to regulations from Indiana Department of Education. Additional oversight and monitoring will be provided by the Mayor's Office, which is sponsoring the charter.

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Why is the Damar Charter Academy a good idea?
A clear and compelling unmet need exists for a school like Damar Charter Academy in Indianapolis. A school that specializes in serving students with extremely challenging disabilities adds to the many quality options parents can access to meet their child’s unique needs. Damar Services has a long and extremely strong reputation of providing outstanding services to people facing life’s most challenging barriers. Perhaps most importantly, 94% of people served by Damar go on to live more independent lives the Damar Charter Academy will allow more students to maximize their full potential.

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Is there strong parent demand and community support for this kind of school?
Overwhelmingly yes. In the few weeks after Mayor Ballard announced his intent to issue a charter to the Damar Charter Academy, Damar and the Mayor’s Office has received hundreds of phone calls. In addition, Damar conducted a survey of 1,081 central Indiana adults in 2010 that found nearly 80 percent of respondents who were familiar with a special needs child believed a smaller, more specialized public school setting for students with intellectual and behavioral challenges was needed. The school received letters of support from local education leaders. Many parent calls received emphasize just how important it is for them to have this option particularly since they can’t afford private options to enhance the life chances for their children and to protect them from being picked on and bullied.

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Are there other schools that specialize in serving students with disabilities?
Yes. There are hundreds of private school options across the country for students with disabilities that are not affordable for many parents. In addition, there are a number of special education cooperatives across Indiana that serve students with disabilities in separate settings. The state of Indiana also has schools for students that are blind and/or deaf located in Indianapolis. Damar currently operates a residential program in Indianapolis for students referred from public school corporations or the courts from across the state. Finally, as of 2009 there were 71 public charter schools in 14 states designed for students with disabilities.

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Do students at Damar Charter Academy have interactions with more typically developing students?
Yes. Any student who wants to attend Damar Charter Academy can apply to enroll, and the school has a robust special and general education curriculum that can serve all students. Thus, students without disabilities may enroll and will be welcomed. Similar to the residential program Damar currently operates, intentionally designed field trips, joint interactions, and other developmentally appropriate experiences with more typically developing peers are a part of Damar Charter Academy’s program.

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Are Damar Charter Academy students segregated”?
No. Damar'’s reason for being is to help people live more independent lives. In fact, Damar was founded in large part to never go back to the past where people with significant developmental disabilities options were state mental institutions, asylums, prison, or an unfulfilled life on the street. Damar Charter Academy welcomes all students, and desires for students with disabilities to be educated in the most appropriate setting, including transitioning to other schools with appropriate supports. 1

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Are there any legal considerations for this kind of a school?
Yes, and Damar Charter Academy meets them. It would be unlawful for a public charter school in Indiana to restrict enrollment for any student, and Damar Charter Academy will not. In fact, the school has developed a comprehensive plan to welcome and serve any student who wants to go there, including students without disabilities. Further, Damar Charter Academy is a public school of choice — parents and students must choose to be educated there and no parent or student will be forced to attend.

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Why does Damar want to do this?
State mental institutions, prison or an unfulfilled life on the street. Just 50 years ago, these sad options were a fact of life for many of those living with developmental disabilities — particularly if they also faced severe behavioral challenges.

In the late 1960's, the founders of Damar Services demanded a different option. Today, Damar is known as the last best hope for many children, particularly those with complex behavioral challenges& Damar is unique in that we serve those whom other service providers are either unable or unwilling to serve. We gladly champion these individuals, focusing on their ability to realize their potential and achieve independence in a community. Our professional staff is dedicated to making the near-impossible happen and we're achieving some pretty amazing results. In fact 96 percent of our clients experience greater independence as a result of our mission.

Damar's viewpoint is simple: All people — including those children and adults with developmental disabilities further challenged by severe behavior — have the right to live their lives with dignity and respect and deserve the opportunity to reach their fullest possible potential.

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1 The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) clearly indicates that the vast majority of students should be educated in standard classrooms (e.g. the least restrictive environment), and it also indicates that for some students the most appropriate setting is something other than a standard classroom, ranging from homebound/hospital settings, residential facilities, separate schools, or separate classes. By law it is the responsibility of a team of people (i.e., students, parents/caregivers, teachers, specialists, and administrators) to determine the content of the child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and setting where the child’s needs can most appropriately be met.

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