Students leave the school bus as they prepare for their first day at Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Nine proposed charter schools have made it to the second round of Mississippi’s application process. 

The applicants are all looking to open in 2023, with all but one run by new operators. 

While most schools would offer just one or two grades at launch, if approved they would eventually serve a larger group of students. They are:

  • Columbus Leadership Academy, grades K-8 in the Columbus Municipal School District
  • Level-Up Academy Public, grades K-12 in the Greenville Public School District
  • Mound Bayou New Millennial High, grades 7-12 in the North Bolivar Consolidated School District
  • Natchez-Adams Early Childhood and Intermediate Center, grades K-5 in the Natchez-Adams School District
  • Resilience Academy of Teaching Excellence, grades K-5 in the East Tallahatchie and North Bolivar School Districts
  • Southwest Mississippi Academy of Health Sciences, grades 6-12 in the Natchez-Adams School District
  • Southwest Mississippi Conservatory for Performing and Media Arts, grades 6-12 in the Natchez-Adams School District
  • Clarksdale Collegiate Prep, grades 7-12 in the Clarksdale Municipal School District. 
  • Instant Impact Global Prep, grades K-8 in the Natchez Adams School District

The applicants that have made it to this stage will be reviewed by an outside evaluator whose findings will be released in July. Final decisions on each potential school will be announced in September. 

Charter schools are free public schools that do not report to a school board like traditional public schools. Instead, they are governed by the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, which oversees the application process to open a new charter school. They have more flexibility for teachers and administrators when it comes to student instruction, and are funded by local school districts based on 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. All of the proposed schools being reviewed this cycle would be opening in D or F districts. 

Currently, Mississippi has eight charter schools. Most are located in Jackson, but there are schools in Clarksdale and Greenwood. 

Amanda Johnson, the operator of Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School, said she is applying to expand her school, in part, because parents have asked her for it.

“We made promises to those families to do what we needed to do to prepare their child for success in high school and beyond,” Johnson said. “We feel this is a continuation of the work we are already doing to prepare our scholars for college and career success.” 

Johnson said she feels Clarksdale Collegiate Public, which serves about 70 students per grade in grades K-5, has been very successfully received by the community thus far. They have had to accelerate their growth plan twice, and have a waiting list that Johnson described as “healthy.” 

The decision to open a middle and high school is also rooted in their commitment to the students in the Delta, Johnson explained, saying that it has always been central to their mission to ensure Delta children can achieve at high levels. 

“For us, it’s about making sure our kids are prepared to have opportunities so that they can pursue whatever they are interested in — whether it be military, four-year college, or vocational, we want to make sure that we are providing opportunities for them and making space for their passions,” Johnson said. 

They are currently authorized to serve students through the eighth grade, but are planning to reorganize so that one facility serves K-6 and the other 7-12. Johnson said they plan to begin serving seventh graders as Clarksdale Collegiate Prep in the fall of 2023. 

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Julia, a Louisiana native, covers K-12 education. She previously served as an investigative intern with Mississippi Today helping cover the welfare scandal. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied journalism and public policy and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has also been published in The New York Times and the Clarion-Ledger.