A charter school wants to open in Mon County next year. What’s that all about?
Starting next fall, Monongalia and Preston County parents might have another choice when it comes to their children’s education: The West Virginia Academy. The potential charter school filed an application with Mon County Schools in July, and a public forum—a required part of the approval process—took place last week. A decision on the fate of the school will come before the end of the year.
The development of a charter school in Mon County was made possible by legislation passed in 2019. It allows for the creation of up to three charter schools in the state by 2023—this is the first to be proposed—then up to three a year every year after. Proponents of the bill called it a bold approach to education reform in a state where less than a third of school children are considered proficient in core subjects like math and reading.
Charter schools are meant to address areas in which an existing public school system is deficient in some way. The 371-page application submitted by the Academy addresses perceived deficiencies in Monongalia County’s existing school system and details the ways its Board of Governors plans to do things differently. John Treu, president of the West Virginia Academy Board of Governors, says it just wants to give parents another choice, and that competition might make each school system better.
Among the major differences:
- Students would wear school uniforms.
- Enrollment would be capped at 1,420 students in grades K–12.
- The school calendar would consist of 9-week terms with 2- or 3-week breaks between them to assess student progress and any remediation that might be required.
- Fridays would be “Experience Days” for student service learning projects and field trips.
- Teachers would be compensated under a merit pay structure.
- A Core Knowledge Curriculum would be taught through teacher-guided direct instruction.
- An International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme would be offered to students in 6–12.
- An online education component would ensure continuity of learning should a student remain out of the classroom for an extended period.
- The Academy would be overseen by the Monongalia County Board of Education but administered by a volunteer board of governors, which, by eliminating the middle-administrator level, Treu says, would reduce administrative bloat and increase spending per student.
The Mon County chapter of the American Federation of Teachers opposes the creation of a charter school, saying it would redirect much-needed funding—estimates are as high as $11 million per year—from existing public schools. The union suggests that the new school, and subsequent reduction in funding, could eventually mean enrichment programs like music and art would be cut from Mon County schools. They also believe that Mon County Schools already provides a high-quality education to the county’s children, as demonstrated by recent U.S. News and World Report rankings that place Morgantown and University high schools in the top 10 of all high schools in the state.
Treu says the statements are misleading. He says that school funding in West Virginia, on the order of $12,500 per student per year, follows the student: If a student leaves one school to attend another, so, too, does the obligation or cost of teaching that student. Furthermore, he says, charter schools don’t divert money away from public schools because, by statute, they, too, are public schools.
Parents will have to wait a bit longer to find out whether there will be another education choice come next fall. On Tuesday, October 27, Superintendent Eddie Campbell explained to the school board that his office will provide an official notice of application deficiencies to the West Virginia Academy Board by the close of business Thursday. The Academy Board will have until November 13 to address those deficiencies. The superintendent’s office will then review the corrections and make a formal suggestion to the school board during a special meeting scheduled for noon on November 30.
You can find more information about the West Virginia Academy here and read its application here. You can also listen to the school board’s discussion of the topic here and review transcripts from the public forum here.