MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Academy, a West Virginia public charter school, is days away from learning if they are the winner of the national $1 million Yass Prize or one of eight finalist awards, each worth $500,000.
The winner will be announced in New York City this coming Wednesday.
The first charter school in the state is now one of 33 other institutions nationwide named semifinalists for the award referred to as the “Pulitzer of Education Innovation.”
“Our school has been viewed and vetted by this outside group; a national and very well-respected group has looked at our school and said this is a good thing for the students and the state of West Virginia, and they’ve given us a huge stamp of approval,” West Virginia Academy Chairman Jon Treu said.
The announcement was made following the four-week Accelerator program. During the program, schools are evaluated as they collaborate with experts from business, education, and policy. The accelerator is another step in the process to qualify for the event next week in New York.
“They were pretty extensive in making a site visit, coming out to our school, and seeing what’s happening,” Treu said. “The committee was definitely attuned to what we were doing during the accelerator, so a lot of the process has already happened.”
More than 1,000 schools nationwide entered the competition back in March and now the estimated 300 students and 30 workers at the academy will learn this week if they are the winners.
“We want to enjoy the journey as we’re doing it,” Treu said. “We really are making miracles happen, and we really are taking a very different approach to education, and it’s working already.”
West Virginia Academy operates the Suncrest Campus on Chestnut Ridge Road, with plans to expand to two other locations in the future. The Falling Water Campus would serve middle and high school students, as would the proposed Preston Campus, at the current site of the Preston County Youth Center, where WVA currently conducts its indoor sports.
“The objective of using the funds is really toward expanding our school and helping to continue what we’re already doing, but perhaps more effectively,” Treu said.
Treu said the process has immersed them in not only their charter school operation, but it has also provided the opportunity to meet other running schools and industry experts.
“It was just good for us to hear from others to help us stay focused on that mission that we’re doing this to help children, and we’re doing this for West Virginia, and we’re already seeing that happen,” Treu said.