Charter schools are all the rage

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ReImagine Prep

ReImagine Prep, one of the state’s first charter schools, is located on McDowell Road in South Jackson.

Nine organizations with hopes of opening new charter schools in the 2018-19 school year submitted letters of intent this month to the state board that oversees charter schools.

All nine organizations that have submitted letters to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board this year have never operated a charter school before. In the applications, they are referred to as “new operators.”

One group that submitted an application last year but was rejected plans to try again. Shades of Elegance wants to open the Truth Academy STEAM Charter School, a K-8 school in the Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

Johnny Franklin, the vice-chair of the Charter Authorizer Board and a member of the board’s applications subcommittee, said it’s too early in the process to make judgments about the potential applicants.

“I’m delighted these folks are showing an interest. It just goes to show you that folks out there in these communities are looking for options,” Franklin said. “Of course, it’s a very rigorous process … This is a light first step with the Letters of Intent.”

The deadline for organizations to submit letters of intent was March 7, and the deadline for submitting full proposals is May 9.

The board has approved the opening of four charter schools since its creation in 2014. Three – Reimagine Prep, Midtown Public Charter School, Smilow Prep – are in operation this year and will continue adding grades until they reach full capacity. A fourth, Smilow Collegiate, will open in the 2018-2019 school year. All are located in Jackson.

Last year, the board did not approve any new applications for charter schools. One group, Collegiate Academies, withdrew its application after a lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi charter schools’ funding.

Oral arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled for April 4 before Judge Dewayne Thomas in Hinds County Chancery Court.

The eight organizations in addition to Shades of Elegance that are seeking authority to open charter schools:

Clarksdale Collegiate, whose mission is to open a K-8 school serving children in the Mississippi Delta.

Girls Club and Learning Center, whose mission is to open a Pre-K-5 charter school in the Holmes County or Greenwood Public School Districts.

Inspire Charter School, whose mission is to open a 5th and 6th grade charter school in the Columbus Municipal School District.

Kingdom Charter School, whose mission is to open a Pre-K-12 school in the South Pike School District.

New Visions Prep Academy, whose mission is to open a K-12 school in Jackson.

SR1, whose mission is to open the SR1 College Preparatory and STEM Academy in the Canton Public School District.

Success Prep Incorporated, whose mission is to open a K-12 school in Jackson.

Team HOYAS, whose mission is to open a school serving 1st through 3rd graders in Holmes County.