As the students filed through the front door of Excel Academy Charter School, the principal greeted each one by name. She shook hands and inspected their uniforms dark blue polo shirts and khakis before allowing the next student inside.
Socks? Komal Bhasin, the principal at the East Boston middle school, asked one boy, who lifted up each pant leg, revealing the requisite dark pair.
Strict discipline, along with high expectations and intensive instruction, is a hallmark at Excel Academy and other Boston charter schools that are seeking to open nearly a dozen additional campuses across the city in the next few years.
The expansions, which state education officials will decide on this month, are shaping up to be the most aggressive growth of these independent public schools in at least a decade. Boston has emerged as the hottest market for new charter schools under a state law enacted last year that encourages the doubling of charter school seats in school districts with the lowest state standardized test scores.
Of the 20 proposals for new charter schools, 12 seek to locate in Boston. The Boston applications aim to create more than 6,000 seats over the next five years, but the state law caps new seats in the city at about 4,500 meaning state education officials will have to reject some applications even if the proposals have merit.
Some schools, if approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Feb. 28, could open this fall, and several are already mailing pamphlets and applications to prospective students across the city.
Behind most of the proposals are four current Boston charter schools all with high MCAS scores and popular among families of color that are attempting to create their own network of schools. Two other proposals have been filed by new would-be charter school operators, while another is being pursued by a national operator.
It is a surge in growth unlike any we have ever seen, said Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, a charitable organization that urged the state to let more charter schools open. We have a very strong cadre of charter schools that are proven providers and ready to expand.