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Seven organizations notified the Arkansas Department of Education this week that they intend to apply for state-issued charters for schools that would open for the first time in the 2020-21 school year.

One of the seven proposed open-enrollment charter schools is planned for Bentonville, one is planned for Winslow and one is planned for Eudora.

The remaining four would be in Pulaski County, which is where a majority of the state's existing open-enrollment charter schools are located.

If all seven nonprofit organizations that submitted letters of intent follow through with full applications by an April 25 deadline, those applications will be reviewed and acted on by both the Arkansas Charter Authorizing Panel and the Arkansas Board of Education.

The authorizing panel and Education Board could approve all seven proposals without exceeding the state's cap of 34 charter school systems.

Currently there are 26 charter school systems in the state and one more has been approved for opening in the 2019-20 school year -- Premier Academy in North Little Rock. That leaves seven charters available to be awarded in this latest application cycle.

Scott Smith, the executive director of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center that supports charter schools and traditional school systems, has worked closely with two of the organizations submitting letters of intent and either has or will be reaching out to the others.

"All in all, it's a little bit smaller class as far as total letters of intent, but there are some very strong applicants and at least a couple of very innovative concepts," Smith said Wednesday. "So, they are well in keeping with the intent and purpose of the charter laws, and we look forward to working with the applicants as they work through the application process."

Only one of the proposals in this cycle is from an out-of-state charter school management organization.

Democracy Prep Public Schools Inc. of New York City operates 21 public charter schools, serving more than 6,500 students in Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas, said Jonathan Howard, the organization's vice president for network growth, in the letter of intent to Arkansas officials.

The organization intends to apply for a charter to open a school within the boundaries of the Little Rock School District -- in or around central, south or southwest Little Rock -- for as many as 1,200 students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Howard did not immediately respond to a phone call and email to him Wednesday afternoon about the plans.

Another of the proposals for a school in Little Rock was submitted by Ronald Wilkerson, founder and chief executive officer of Ministry of Intercession, which does business as Bridge2Success.

Wilkerson said his organization currently provides after-school and summer programs for students and would like to expand those services to include an open-enrollment charter middle school for as many as 300 sixth-through-eighth-graders.

"Many of the children we work with are doing very, very poorly in their subjects," Wilkerson said when asked about his interest in starting a school in the Baseline Road area of the city.

"Many of them are having difficulty reading and they are having problems with math, and I'm speaking of third-graders and up. We have some third-graders who can't read at all and some high schoolers who can't comprehend.

"I don't know how they are getting through the system without knowing anything," he said, adding, "maybe we can help these young people."

Other nonprofit organizations that submitted letters of intent to apply for a state charter are:

• Transforming Life Ministries of Sherwood, which proposes to open the Dr. Lloyd Elam Academy of Excellence and Innovation for up to 150 pupils in sixth through eighth grades in a yet-to-be-identified site in Little Rock, North Little Rock or Sherwood. Phyllis Nichols is the contact for the organization.

• My Sisters Keyper Inc. of Maumelle that is proposing the Keyper Academy of Excellence for as many as 600 kindergarten-through-12th-grade students at a site within the Little Rock School District. Karolyn Taylor is the contact for the sponsoring foundation.

• Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter Inc. of Bentonville, which is planning The Northwest Arkansas Children's Center School to serve no more than 130 students who have experienced traumatic events or have had adverse childhood experiences that caused a setback in their educations. Jake Gibbs, education director for the shelter, is the contact for the proposal.

• ABC Adolescent Center Inc., which is proposing the formation of the Arkansas Academy of Excellence at Eudora Charter School in the Lakeside School District in Chicot County. The school plan calls for serving as many as 600 students in kindergarten through 12th grades. Raina Porchay is listed as the contact for the sponsoring organization.

• Winslow Community Center Association, which plans to create the Winslow School of the Arts for as many as 260 students in kindergarten through 12th grades. The school is planned for the former Winslow School District campus, which closed after the Winslow district's 2006 consolidation with another school system. Julie Dilworth is the contact for the organization.

Metro on 03/07/2019

Print Headline: 7 groups to apply for charter schools, including 4 in Pulaski County

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