Two new organizations are applying to start charter schools in West Virginia over the next couple of years.
Workforce Initiative for Nurses (WIN) Academy proposes to offer an accelerated nursing program option for up to 30 high school students in the ten-county region that the BridgeValley Community & Technical College serves. The application characterizes the charter school as an initiative of Casey Sacks, BridgeValley’s president.
The focus would be on high school seniors. allowing participants to complete the first year of an associate-level registered nurse program.
“If successful, the WIN Academy will help a small cohort of young students complete their nursing program around the age of 20, which will help the larger workforce shortage of registered nurses – which is a high-demand/high-wage position in West Virginia,” the organization wrote in its application.
The M.E.C.C.A. Business Learning Institute hopes to open in Berkeley County for middle- and high school students with a focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and finance. Its application proposes starting for about 250 seventh and eighth grade students in fall 2024. Over time, the school could grow to 850 students through grade 12.
The name stands for MBEF College & Career Academies. The “MBEF,” in turn, stands for the “Mentoring by Example Foundation,” which is a nonprofit organization working with young people.
“MBLI believes that all students can meet their full potential and will provide students with the opportunity to explore interest in business and entrepreneurship while developing leadership skills,” the organization wrote in its application.
The deadline for new applicants to the West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board was this past week.
“It is great to have the prospect of both general and specialized charter schools in West Virginia,” said Adam Kissel, chairman of that board.
“I would love to see a wide variety of proven or innovative curriculum models, including classical schools, with a wide variety of enrollment sizes, appropriate to the needs and preferences of families, students, and communities of all different kinds across the state.”
He noted that if both new applicants are approved then West Virginia’s total number of approved charter schools would be seven.
“The pace of growth appears to track the legislature’s limit of 10 charters in the first three years,” Kissel said.
West Virginia has had no charter schools until now, after passing a state law allowing them in 2019. The first schools opened for students within the past few weeks.
West Virginia Academy in Morgantown started its academic year a few weeks ago with 470 students.
Eastern Panhandle Prep Academy has 330 students enrolled through the end of last week.
West Virginia Virtual Academy had 261 students enrolled.
Virtual Prep Academy has 192 enrolled.
A fifth that had been approved to open this year, Nitro Preparatory Academy, was delayed over its location this year and is planning to open next year instead.
The first charter schools have taken root even as a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the system moves toward the state Supreme Court.
“I don’t think West Virginia has fully realized the potential that charter schools have in solving some of our state’s biggest problems,” said Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the Cardinal Institute, which has supported a variety of “school choice” initiatives in West Virginia.
“For example, take the proposed charter school focused on nursing in the Kanawha Valley, the further upstream you can solve problems like a nursing shortage, the better it is for taxpayers, the state, and local communities. Once West Virginians are comfortable exercising choice in education, I expect we will continue to see impressive growth in charter schools and education options, generally, which is a great thing for children and families.”