Seven organizations have submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education letters of their intent to apply to operate nine open-enrollment charter schools starting with the 2023-24 school year.
The schools are planned for locations in Pulaski County, Cabot, Pine Bluff, Paron and for Benton County in Northwest Arkansas. One proposal envisions a virtual instructional program that would serve students statewide.
The planners for each of the schools must now follow up their one-page letters of intent with completed final applications to the state by July 15, after which the applications will be evaluated by the state agency and the state's Charter Authorizing Panel.
The panel's recommendation on each of the proposals is ultimately acted on by the Arkansas Board of Education.
Arkansas currently has seven charters available for operation of open-enrollment charter schools by nonprofit organizations, the state Division of Elementary and Secondary Education said earlier this month. The current cap on charters is 34. Since 27 of those have been awarded, there are seven available for new programs.
Melissa Bosch, a planner for the proposed Omni Classical Prep of Cabot charter school, said the school program will be built around the classical model of teaching liberal arts.
"All the kids will have such a broad range of math and science that they can go into any career field when they graduate," Bosch said.
"We will take back language and math and teach a very deep language and math program," she said.
Core values, leadership and personal responsibility will be components of the lessons, the letter of intent states. Critical thinking will be taught as a way "to search out the truth in every subject."
Bosch said she and others were motivated to establish the school because of parent dissatisfaction with the curriculum in the local traditional school district, resistance by the district to change, and few if any other school options in the area.
Omni Classical Prep is being planned for a building that is part of Briarwood Baptist Church and has a gymnasium, kitchen and cafeteria, Bosch said.
Plans call for the school to initially serve as many as 50 pupils at every learning level in kindergarten through eighth grade, and expand to 200 at full capacity. Grades nine through 12 may be added as staffing and school size allow, the letter of intent states.
Leaders of the nonprofit organization PALS4Success Community Outreach submitted preliminary plans for a Hi-TEC Middle and High School campus in each of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pine Bluff to help underserved students, Doris Beasley-Phillips said Friday. PALS stands for Partners of Academics, Leadership and Services.
The three schools would incorporate synchronous and asynchronous online instruction while emphasizing technology and entrepreneurship along with math, science and the arts.
The planners anticipate starting the three schools with as many as 720 sixth-through-eighth graders and expanding to 1,440 in middle and high school in five years.
"Our goal is to prove that it doesn't matter where a school is located, that if you have the same budget, the same trained staff, the same programs to empower and train parents, then you are going to get quantifiable results," said Beasley-Phillips, who resides in Texas but is a graduate of Little Rock McClellan High and the University of Central Arkansas.
The proposed Bakari Learning Charter School of Little Rock submitted a letter of intent to apply for a charter school a year ago but did not at the time complete the application process. The preliminary plan submitted to the state last week envisions a prekindergarten through 12th grade school that would serve low-socioeconomic families in southwest Little Rock. Individualized learning plans, instruction in social and behavioral life skills, and assistance to parents through services provided by a partnership of the school and community organizations are included in the proposal.
Andrea Willis is listed as the contact for the sponsoring organization.
Other proposed schools are:
• Paron Charter School, to be located in a former middle school, 22265 Arkansas 9 in Paron, which is part of the Bryant School District. The school for up to 300 students in kindergarten through 12th grades intends to ensure student learning and readiness for college and careers with an approach that addresses the social-emotional, ethical and academic needs of students. Elizabeth Graves is the contact for the proposed school.
• Caleb Enrichment Academy is being designed as a high school course credit-recovery program for up to 75 students in grades nine through 12 in Pine Bluff who have dropped out of school, are at high risk of dropping out or are caught up in the Jefferson County juvenile court system, according to the letter of intent. Bishop Esau Watson Jr. is listed as the contact for the proposal.
• ReWild Arkansas Forest School, sponsored by ReWild Arkansas Inc., would provide a nature-based program for students in prekindergarten through fourth grade in a largely outdoor setting in Benton County. The proposal calls for 25 students per class, for a total of 150 students. Wellness, mindfulness, decreased time on technology, and stress/anxiety management would be features of the school, as would sensory play, native plant and animal identification, outdoor culinary experiences, a physical fitness biking program, and art and musical opportunities. Christy Pierce and Melissa Wells are the contacts for the proposal.
• The Compass School Arkansas would differ from the other charter school proposals this year in that it would be a completely virtual school that would use a blend of real-time and recorded lessons in core curriculum and "passion" courses of interest for up to 650 kindergarten through 12th grade students statewide.
"While studies have shown that neither asynchronous nor synchronous instruction alone is sufficient to fully support the process of learning, blending the two models more effectively supports both teacher instruction and student learning," the Compass School letter of intent states.
"By combining synchronous guided instruction with asynchronous independent work, The Compass School Arkansas will be able to achieve the optimal virtual learning environment that boosts students' cognitive, interpersonal, and social skills."
Leann Maggart is the contact for the school.