Nearly a year has passed since the state approved a charter school here, establishing an alternative educational plan for Island families. This week, organizers of the school are inviting parents to consider and maybe choose this new option for their children.

Charter school board members will distribute applications and answer questions Tuesday afternoon at the Wintertide Coffeehouse. This session will run from 4 to 7:30 p.m. in an open house-style format, and parents who are interested in the school are urged to attend.

"It's the general admission meeting," said board member Nelia Decker of West Tisbury. "You shouldn't miss it if you want to apply or are thinking about applying. If you can't make it send a friend, send a relative to pick up your information."

There are no admission requirements for attending the charter school, but the process is not a simple one. Citing the unique nature of the new school, board members stress that they want families to understand and support the school's philosophy before deciding to apply.

Completed applications must be postmarked by Feb. 23. After that, parents will be contacted for interviews. If more than 60 children are interested in attending, the school will conduct a lottery.

"What we want to do is give enough information to people so they can figure out whether they find a fit with us," said Jean Lythcott, who is in the process of becoming a board member of the school. "In other words, the school has a particular kind of program and the intention is to let children and their parents see what the program is like so that they can figure out whether the school would be a good place for them."

A charter school is a learning center designed by an individual town or community, then funded with public dollars. The Island's school, designed by about 10 parents, earned its state charter in March 1995.

Since then, the school has begun searching for six teachers, and board members are currently selecting faculty from a pool of 100 applicants. The school will open in September to students between the ages of 9 and 14. In five years, the school is expected to have 180 children from the ages of 5 to 19. Board members have chosen a West Tisbury site for their campus, on State Road near the intersection of Lambert's Cove Road and Indian Hill Road. The school will be based in three modular trailers.

But the school's bounds will be far wider than its West Tisbury campus and its six faculty members. One of the major features of the school is that students will use the Island as their campus, going to places of business, town halls and conservation property as part of their studies. At the charter school, students will have individual curriculum plans which they will help design. Students will not be given grades but will receive constant guidance and evaluation, and they will not take tests -- but will complete portfolios. Students will also be expected to perform community work.

A press release given to the Gazette last week states: "It is critical that a child experience success at the charter school. Toward that end, our admission criteria will be consistent with the mission of the school. It is important to have a good match between the student's personal goals and the [school's] stated philosophy of student-directed learning and community involvement. We want to encourage students who are motivated, curious and tolerant of others."

Asked about what kind of children will do well at the charter school, Mrs. Lythcott agreed that students who are independent will probably thrive there. But the school will not be limited to students who are already self-starters, she said. Part of the school's obligation is to help children become independent, and it is up to children and their parents to determine whether they will prosper at the charter school.

"The charter school is a public school," she said. "That's the most important thing for people to get. But we don't want to be in the position of saying that our school is the best school for everyone. There are hundreds of families on the Island that are happy with their children in the schools that exist. And we're not in competition with those schools. The point is that this school is a small school. The admission process is one in which parents screen us just as much as we screen them. This is not a private school where there's an entrance exam. We believe in the process of good will."

Another aspect of the program is that parents are expected to participate.

"It's a school that's weighted heavily on the side of parental involvement," Mrs. Decker said. "Children who don't have a guardian or parent, we will find them a sponsor, someone who can take that role on. We don't want to predetermine anyone who can't come. We'd like to open it up to as many people as possible."

The charter school will be financed by the state. The state will fund the school, on a per pupil basis, by sending money directly to the charter school. For example, if it costs $7,000 per year to educate a child at the Edgartown School, and an Edgartown student moves to the charter school, the state will send the $7,000 to the charter school. The Edgartown school committee, which had previously received $7,000 for that child's education, will receive $3,500 instead.

This funding system is new, having been put in place by legislation passed early this year. Under a previous formula, an individual town would not have received anything for a child that transferring from its school. The new funding formula is intended to lessen the impact of charter schools on the established public schools, said Seth Mosler, the school's treasurer.

"It definitely will have an impact," Mr. Mosler said. "No one's saying it won't. But I don't think it'll have a huge impact on any individual town. And it's also a choice.

"It's a very positive concept. It's a terrific group of people that are putting it together and their main goal is to make sure that every child on the Island has a positive school experience."

Mrs. Decker said she hopes people who are curious will come on Tuesday.

"Everyone is eligible," she said. "It's a chance to see if there's a fit or a match between our philosophy and what their needs are."