Two potential charter schools in the Mississippi Delta and Canton made it to the final step of the application process, officials announced Monday.

The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board approved the applicants to move forward at their regular board meeting on Monday afternoon:

  • SR1, a K-5 school to open in the Canton Public School District that would serve 450 students
  • Voices for Education, a proposed 300 student school for grades 7-12 in North Bolivar Consolidated School District.

Southwest Leadership Academy also submitted an application, but failed to meet all but one of the application thresholds, according to the board. SR1 is the only operator who applied in last year’s process but was denied for various reasons.

The most recent charter approved was Leflore Legacy Academy, serving grades 6-8 by 2023. It will open this school year as a middle school with just sixth grade in the Greenwood Public School District. This past school year, Mississippi had six operating charter schools – five in Jackson and one in Clarksdale.

Charters are public schools that do not charge tuition, and are held to the same academic and accountability standards as traditional public schools. By law, charter schools have the capacity for more flexibility for teachers and administrators when it comes to student instruction. Unlike traditional public schools, charters do not have school boards or operate under a local school district, although they are funded by school districts based on their enrollment.

Charter schools can apply directly to the authorizer board if they’re planning to open in a D or F district. If an operator wants to open in an A, B, or C district, they need to get approval from the local school board.

Each year the authorizer board goes through a months-long process to screen potential operators and grant them the authority to open a school in Mississippi. This year the timeline for the 2020 application cycle has been slightly pushed back because of the pandemic.

Operators submitted their applications in June. The board announced the schools moving forward on Monday afternoon. These potential operators will hold public meetings in mid-September and go through interviews and evaluations with the board and an outside evaluator, who looks at the applications on the merits of their educational program and proposed financial and operations program. The board’s final decisions will be announced on October 12.

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.