If the application goes through, West Virginia Academy Ltd. will be the first charter school in the Mountain State, operating in one of the more successful public school districts.
Plans are for the school to be based in the Morgantown area, while recruiting students across Monongalia County.
It might also seek future graduates from neighboring Marion and Preston Counties, which already allows students from the Bruceton Mills area to attend University High.
Either way, the plan has to go through Mon’s Board of Education, first.
Technically, Preston’s BOE would also have give the plan a checkmark.
You’re encouraged to add to the discourse 6 p.m. Tuesday when Mon’s board meets in regular session, via Zoom.
A discussion of the proposed school is on the agenda and if you would like your comments presented, you may send them to Beth Harvey, the district’s operations officer.
Her email is email@example.com.
Remarks must be received with subject line, “Delegations,” by 4 p.m. Monday in order to be read during the meeting.
Letters and deadlines made for a shot across the bow of the BOE in recent days from the academy.
John Treu, a WVU accounting professor and chairman of the board of the proposed school wrote a “demand letter” to both boards of education last week.
The letter said the application was essentially approved in absentia by both Mon and Preston, since neither board provided feedback on the application by the end of October, as mandated.
That was 90 days after the application Mon’s board received July 24, said Treu, who didn’t respond to interview requests in time for this report.
He did, however, discuss the letter in a blog post on the academy’s web site.
“Our charter application that was filed with the Boards of Education for Monongalia and Preston Counties in July has now been statutorily approved due to inaction by these collective boards as our authorizer under the WV charter law,” he wrote, citing state code.
Under that code, local boards of education in the respective counties where a charter school is seeking to be established must review all submitted materials while giving applicants time to correct any deficiencies in those documents.
The 90-day period ended in October, during which Mon’s school district conducted interviews with the academy’s board.
A public forum was also held Oct. 22 at University High School.
Treu said the meter started running July 24 when the academy’s 371-page application was submitted, as per state code.
Eddie Campbel, Mon County Schools Superintendentl said Mon County, though, contends the 90-day period runs from Aug. 31, thus placing the county within the statute.
And the county did return that list of markups to the West Virginia Academy’s board, he said, which now has until 4 p.m. Friday to respond.
“I can tell we, as a board, have done everything we’re supposed to do,” the superintendent said.
‘ … Which sounds like a charter school’
While Mon’s BOE plans to discuss the proposed charter and read those delegation remarks during its meeting Tuesday, it won’t rule on the application until Nov. 30.
Steve Wotring, Campbell’s counterpart in Preston County’s school district, said his board will also discuss the charter when it meets Monday.
“But that’s just basically general information for our board,” the superintendent said, “since Bruceton is a recruitment area. This is more of Mon County’s issue.”
It was every West Virginia lawmaker’s issue in 2019 — and it was a contentious one.
On June 28 that year, Gov. Jim Justice signed the omnibus education bill that narrowly cleared Senate chambers four days earlier.
With the signing, the governor kicked up the atmosphere just like the tornado that touched down in the Charleston area while lawmakers were making their arguments at the capitol.
The bill allows the possibility of three such schools by 2023, with potentially three more every three years.
Earlier that spring in Morgantown, Craig Blair, the 15th District Republican and Senate Finance Chair from Martinsburg, said what he thought was happening was a collective cry for charter schools in West Virginia after all.
Even if it didn’t always start out that way, he said.
He was referring to that contention and the statewide protests which ensued over earlier incarnations of the education bill.
“It’s sort of odd,” he said.
“They’ll tell you, ‘We don’t want charter schools.’ Then they’ll describe what they do want, which sounds like a charter school.”