CHARLESTON – West Virginia’s first three brick-and-mortar public charter schools and first two statewide virtual charter schools meet opening criteria and deadlines for the 2022 school year- 23 next fall.
Members of the Education Accountability Legislative Oversight Commission heard a report Sunday afternoon from Adam Kissel, president of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board. Sunday marked the first day of the April interim legislative meetings.
The Professional Charter School Board approved three physical charter schools last year: Nitro Preparatory Academy in Kanawha County, Panhandle Preparatory Academy in Jefferson County and West Virginia Academy in Monongalia County.
The West Virginia Academy will serve students in kindergarten through ninth grade. Over 400 students are enrolled at West Virginia Academy, with an enrollment forecast of 500 by the time the school year begins. Panhandle Preparatory Academy will serve students in kindergarten through 10th grade, with 120 students already enrolled and an expected enrollment of 156 by the start of the school year.
The Nitro Preparatory Academy will also serve K-10 students, but its future is not as certain. While the other schools have purchased buildings, Nitro Preparatory Academy struggles to find a site after its first proposed location fails.
“The contract with the charter school board says they have to tell us 90 days before they open that they have the property and that it will actually be ready,” Kissel said. “If they don’t or if they think they can’t be financially viable, they won’t be open this year. They could open next year.
The board also approved applications for two statewide virtual public charter schools: the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia and Mountain State Learning Solutions, also known as West Virginia Virtual Academy. House Bill 2012, passed in the 2021 legislative session, allows no more than two statewide virtual charter schools, with an enrollment cap of 5% of the number of school enrollments. statewide each school year.
The Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia projects an enrollment of 360 online students by the start of the school year, while the West Virginia Virtual Academy projects 500.
HB 2012 increased the maximum number of public charter schools allowed in the pilot program created in 2019 from three to 10 schools over a three-year period. The application deadline for new public charter schools for the 2023-24 school year is Wednesday, August 31.
The Professional Charter School Board has 90 days from receipt of an application to approve or reject it. If no action is taken, the public charter school is automatically approved. Applicants must meet 25 different requirements in the pilot program. If the school is considering using a third-party education service provider, the school must meet 12 additional criteria for approval.
Kissel told lawmakers the board plans to announce the hiring of an executive director soon. Kissel serves as both chairman of the board and interim executive director. The council consists of five voting members, but is reduced to four members. Kissel said he expects Gov. Jim Justice to appoint a fifth member to the board soon. The board is also awaiting approval from the West Virginia Attorney General’s office of a contract for a website.