Board accepts plan for state’s first charter school

news_education_greenBy Jeff Amy

Associated Press

JACKSON – Mississippi’s first charter school is closer to opening.

The Charter School Authorizer Board voted Monday to accept the application of RePublic Charter School, which wants to open Reimagine Prep in Jackson, serving fifth grade through eighth grade. The board will now seek to negotiate a contract with RePublic. Charter schools would be authorized for five-year terms, and the board can authorize up to 15 per year.

RePublic, which has two schools in Nashville, Tennessee, plans to build the Mississippi school in fall 2015. The school would have 440 students at full capacity, and RePublic has raised $400,000.

ReImagine Prep “will be setting a great standard for what charter schools should look like in Mississippi,” said Karen Elam of Oxford, the authorizer board member who shepherded the application. “In short, really top-notch.”

The board turned down an application from the Columbus Coalition for Educational Options, which proposed the Inspire Charter School STEM and Arts Scholars Academy, serving kindergarten through sixth grade and ninth through 12th grade. The board also rejected the Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation, which proposed the Phoenix Early College Charter School in Natchez, serving ninth through 12th grade.

Board member Krystal Cormack, who oversaw the Columbus application, said the plans didn’t clearly incorporate science, technology, engineering, math and arts into the curriculum, and was handicapped by not proposing a principal. Board member Benita Coleman Potter said the Natchez application was lacked a firm commitment by Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Alcorn State University, a crucial element for a high school that plans to offer college credit.

The three finalists emerged from an original group of 12 applicants. The others either withdrew or were rejected for having incomplete applications or being ineligible.

The board plans to start the next round of applications over the summer.

State lawmakers in 2013 approved an expanded law allowing charter schools – public schools run by private groups that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for less regulation – after a two-year fight.

Local schools boards in districts rated A, B and C under the state’s A-to-F system get veto power over charter schools. Students aren’t allowed to cross district lines to attend a charter school.

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