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A state panel on charter schools gave initial approval to one charter school Wednesday.

The Charter Authorizing Panel endorsed opening the proposed Premier High School of North Little Rock, which would be intended for students who have dropped out or are in jeopardy of dropping out of their traditional high schools.

The charter panel rejected the proposed Prolific Learning Arts Academy in Little Rock.

Earlier, the panel said no to the applications for Focus Academy of Arts and Sciences in Bentonville and Pioneer Schools in North Little Rock.

The majority of the Charter Authorizing Panel members said they were concerned about the readiness of Focus Academy and Pioneer Schools' plans in terms of curriculum. The majority of the panel also expressed concern about budgeting in regard to the Pioneer Schools.

The state Board of Education will review the panel’s decisions at a later date.

The Education Board has the authority to accept a Charter Authorizing Panel decision or hold its own hearing on an application. That hearing could come at the request of the charter school planner or a local school district that is in opposition to the charter, or on the state board’s own initiative.

An open-enrollment charter school is taxpayer-supported and operated by a nonprofit organization other than a traditional school district.

Focus Academy proposes a charter school for grades kindergarten through eight, with an interdisciplinary approach that combines science, technology, engineering, and mathematic instruction.

The school would open with a maximum of 500 pupils in grades kindergarten through four and then add a grade and capacity each year through the 2023-2024 academic year. Ultimate capacity would be a maximum of 900 children.

Pioneer Schools proposes a campus for students in grades kindergarten through 12, with a maximum enrollment of 1,000. The school would admit up to 500 pupils beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. In that academic year, the school would go up to fourth grade. By the 2023-2024 school year, the school would go up to ninth grade and accommodate up to 525 students.

The charter panel will meet again at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to consider three additional applications for charter schools.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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