The opening of a new charter school in Jackson has been delayed for the second time because of the coronavirus pandemic, while the fate of the state’s first charter high school is unknown.

Revive Prep, a kindergarten through eighth grade school operated by RePublic Schools, planned to open in August of 2020 but received board approval in 2018 to delay the opening another year to 2021.

On Monday the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, the board that oversees charter schools in the state, again approved a request to delay opening an additional year. The school is now scheduled to open in 2022.

The authorizer board in 2018 also allowed RePublic Schools, the Tennessee-based charter school operator, to delay opening RePublic High School. RePublic High School would be the state’s first charter high school.

State law says a charter school may delay its opening for one year, but any extension beyond that requires board approval. RePublic Schools has not submitted an extension request for its planned high school, said Lisa Karmacharya, executive director of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board.

“We don’t have all those answers yet,” Karmacharya said when asked whether RePublic will have to re-apply to open the high school. “We’re still working through those logistics because it’s a first for them and for us.”

RePublic Schools currently operates three schools in Jackson.

The group usually needs a window of 12 to 18 months to properly plan for the opening of a school, and the onset of COVID-19 threatened that timeline, said Jon Rybka, CEO of RePublic Schools. 

“We were asking ourselves, ‘Do we have the bandwidth to both plan appropriately for Revive as well as figure out what we need to do for our current students?’” he said, referring to the transition to distance learning prompted by the pandemic. “We decided that doing both would be a disservice to existing families, students and staff members.” 

Rybka said RePublic made the decision over the summer to delay opening Revive Prep until August of 2022. They are currently interviewing candidates for principal and plan to open the first year with kindergarteners and 5th graders. Additional grades will be added each subsequent year.

“We were thinking specifically about our students in Jackson,” said Rybka, whose organization also operates three charter schools in Nashville, Tenn. “We’ve seen the data nationwide regarding the negative effects of COVID, specifically disproportionately on African American citizens and individuals from low-income backgrounds.” 

Rybka said the organization and its teachers have put maximum effort into figuring out how best to educate existing students in the face of the pandemic.

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.