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The state Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a plan by a charter school system to acquire the two-campus Little Rock Preparatory Academy starting with the 2020-21 school year.

The approval enables LISA Academy to reconfigure grades in its Little Rock schools, including a move of the high school to the Little Rock Preparatory Academy site at Markham and South Hughes streets.

On Oct. 15, the state’s Charter Authorizing Panel endorsed the proposals to attach the Little Rock Preparatory Academy to the much larger LISA Academy charter system, increasing LISA’s three Little Rock campuses to four, one of which will be a more spacious high school.

The proposals were subject to final review by the state Board of Education.

Little Rock Preparatory Academy is a charter school. The school's leaders told the seven-member authorizing panel in October that giving up the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school system — sponsored by the nonprofit Collegiate Choices organization — was a difficult decision but was necessary because of declining enrollment or resources.

The decisions by the state charter panel and state education board come at a time when the state-controlled Little Rock School District is working on several high school issues.

Those include the efforts by the district to enhance the academic program at F-graded Hall High at North Hughes and H streets, the expansion of Pinnacle View Middle School into the high school grades 10 through 12 and the August 2020 opening of the new Southwest High — resulting in the need to redraw attendance-zone lines for high schools districtwide.

The 255-pupil Little Rock Preparatory system, which is authorized to serve as many as 432 pupils, opened in the 2009-10 school year. Pupils are at two locations: a primary school at 1616 S. Spring St. and a middle school at 6711 W. Markham St.

The newly endorsed amendments call for LISA Academy to lease the West Markham Street campus from KLS Leasing LLC, part of the Walton Family Foundation in Bentonville, at a cost of 12% of the school’s per-student revenue.

LISA Academy will not retain Little Rock Preparatory Academy’s primary school, which is on the grounds of the downtown Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

The smaller Little Rock Preparatory Academy charter school had sought curriculum and other kinds of help earlier this year through a memorandum of understanding with LISA Academy, which has a total of seven schools in Little Rock, Sherwood and Springdale.

Little Rock Preparatory and LISA entered into the agreement in anticipation of Little Rock Preparatory surrendering its state charter to operate when the charter expires at the conclusion of this school year, enabling the LISA system to acquire the school. Pupils at Little Rock Preparatory will be offered positions at LISA before the annual spring lottery to fill vacant seats.

The approval Thursday allows for the transfer of Little Rock Preparatory students to the LISA system, an increase in the LISA Academy’s systemwide enrollment cap by 432 to 3,432, and approval of the reconfiguration of grades and new names for LISA’s Little Rock campuses.

Little Rock Preparatory Academy’s current middle school campus in the former Lutheran High School at West Markham and South Hughes streets will become LISA Academy West High School.

The current LISA Academy High School at 23 Corporate Hill Drive will become a seventh- and eighth-grade middle school.

LISA’s existing middle school building at 21 Corporate Hill Drive will house sixth-graders only. The LISA Academy-Chenal school serving kindergarten-through-sixth grades at Westhaven Drive and Bowman Road will become LISA Academy West Elementary and would serve kindergarten-through-fifth grades.

LISA Academy, which has enhanced its administrative staff to better support the recent acquisition of the Springdale campus and now Little Rock Preparatory, is studying some of the extra wraparound services that Little Rock Preparatory provides its pupils, with an eye toward incorporating them in the LISA program, officials have said.

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

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