3:06pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

Charter school board starts assessment of two most recent applicants

Members of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board are starting to assess the two most recent applicants.

Workforce Initiative for Nurses (WIN) Academy proposes to offer an accelerated nursing program option for up to 30 high school students in the ten-county region that the BridgeValley Community & Technical College serves. The application characterizes the charter school as an initiative of Casey Sacks, BridgeValley’s president.

The focus would be on high school seniors. allowing participants to complete the first year of an associate-level registered nurse program.

The other, M.E.C.C.A. Business Learning Institute, hopes to open in Berkeley County for middle- and high school students with a focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and finance. Its application proposes starting for about 250 seventh and eighth grade students in fall 2024. Over time, the school could grow to 850 students through grade 12.

The name stands for MBEF College & Career Academies.  The “MBEF,” in turn, stands for the “Mentoring by Example Foundation,” which is a nonprofit organization working with young people.

James Paul

“You know, I’m a believer that when parents have more options, more opportunities to find unique schools that meet their children’s needs, that students are going to be more likely to meet their full potential and have better later life outcomes, so this is exciting we have these new applications,” said James Paul, executive director of the state charter schools board during a meeting today.

The charter school organizers filed their applications at the end of August, so evaluations may unfold through November. “I’m talking with both applicants to clarify and strengthen their proposals where necessary. From here, both applicants will have a public forum where local residents can provide input and learn about the proposed schools,” Paul said.

In-person interviews will also take place with members of the charter schools board. “And then after those two events happen, the board will ultimately vote on whether or not to approve each school and authorize them to serve students in West Virginia,” Paul said.

West Virginia has had no charter schools until now, after passing a state law allowing them in 2019. The first schools opened for students within the past few weeks.

The first charter schools have taken root even as a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the system moves toward the state Supreme Court.

Today, Paul described some changes to enrollment at the existing schools now that the academic year is underway.

West Virginia Academy in Morgantown reported 333 enrolled students this week. That figure was down significantly from last month, when 470 students were reported to be enrolled.

Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy reported 302. That, too, was down from the 330 reported last month.

West Virginia Virtual Academy reported 390 enrolled students. That number was up from the 261 students enrolled last month.

Virtual Prep Academy reported 235 enrolled students. And that number was also up from the 192 reported last month.

So the total is about 1,260 students at the start of the first year.

“And overall, I’d say over the past month we’ve seen significant growth in the virtual schools,” Paul said, “and some enrollment declines in the brick-and-mortars. My sense is that the lower reported numbers are not so much the results of showing up at a school and deciding to go somewhere else, but instead it’s more likely that families have enrolled in multiple places and ultimately decided not to attend that brick-and-mortar charter school.

“In my experience and my discussions with charter leaders in other places, this type of enrollment shifting is fairly common in the first year.”

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