University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Four New Open-Enrollment Charter Schools Approved This Week

In The View from the OEP on October 17, 2014 at 11:12 am

On Wednesday and Thursday, Arkansas’ Charter Authorizing Panel held hearings for proposed open-enrollment charter schools. The Charter Authorizing Panel is appointed by the Commissioner of Education and is comprised of the Assistant Commissioners in the Arkansas Department of Education.

In an earlier blog post, we detailed the six proposed open-enrollment charter schools that applied to open for the 2015-16 school year. In addition to the six applications for new schools, KIPP Delta submitted an amendment request to open a middle school in Forrest City, making a total of seven charter school proposals that were scheduled to be heard this week. Due to existing laws, up to six open-enrollment charter schools could be authorized in the 2014-15 application cycle.

Due to application deficiencies in two proposed schools, the Charter Authorizing Panel held hearings for only 5 of the 7 proposed schools this week (4 applications and 1 amendment request): 4 proposed schools were approved, and 1 proposed school was denied.

Approved open-enrollment charters:

  • KIPP Delta received an amendment request to open a middle school in Forrest City. The school will open with 5th grade students in 2015-16 and expand from there. KIPP submitted an amendment request (as opposed to an application), due to an existing law that allows KIPP Delta to open new campuses under its original charter.
    • Forrest City School District submitted a letter opposing the school.
  • Capitol City Lighthouse Charter School was approved to open in North Little Rock. Currently, Lighthouse Academies operates charter schools in Jacksonville and Pine Bluff. The new charter school will open with students in grades K-6 and expand by one grade level each year to eventually serve K-12.
    • North Little Rock School District presented opposition to the school, highlighting a decrease in funding from the desegregation lawsuit.
  • Haas Hall Academy was approved to open a charter school in Bentonville. Haas Hall Academy currently operates an 8-12 charter school in Fayetteville that opened in 2004. The new school in Bentonville will serve students in grades 7-12.
  • Ozark Montessori Academy was approved to open a school in Springdale. The school will initially serve students in grades K-6, but it will add a grade level in subsequent years to reach K-8. Ozark Montessori Academy stated that it will become the first public Montessori school in the state.

Denied open-enrollment charters:

  • Arkansas Connections Academy applied to open a virtual school to serve K-12 students across the state of Arkansas (with operations out of Bentonville). The charter sought to serve 1,000 students in year 1, 2,000 in year 2, and 3,000 in year 3.
    • The Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators spoke against the charter.
    • The panel unanimously denied the application based off a number of concerns, including technology support and teacher capacity. The panel voted to allow Arkansas Connections Academy to resubmit an application next year.

Tabled open-enrollment charters:

  • Redfield Tri-County Charter School applied to open a charter school in Redfield, where a middle school was closed after the 2012-13 school year (Redfield had previously been consolidated with White Hall School District).
  • Rockbridge Montessori School is seeking to open a school in Little Rock to serve students in K-8 (starting with K-4).

The tabled applications were postponed due to requirements regarding communication of the proposed charters schools in newspapers. The Charter Authorizing Panel will announce when the hearings of the last two schools will take place. Additionally, we may see appeals of the current decisions made to the State Board of Education. A request for an appeal can be made by a member of the State Board of Education, the proposed charter school team, or a school district in opposition to the charter school. The State Board of Education then must reach a majority vote to hear the appeal. If last year is any indicator, we might expect to see appeals made in the upcoming months.

Furthermore, in November, the Charter Authorizing Panel will hold hearings for five proposed district-conversion charter schools (read about the applications here). As always, we will keep you posted on these upcoming hearings and outcomes!

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