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Supreme Court sides with Mon BOE on charter decision

MORGANTOWN — Last November’s call by the Monongalia County Board of Education to reject the application of what would have been the first charter school in West Virginia was upheld Tuesday by the state Supreme Court.

The goal was to eventually grow the West Virginia Academy into a K-12 public charter over the next several years.

Its board of directors envisioned a school that would draw from Mon and portions of neighboring Preston County, which already sends a number of its students to University High School on Baker’s Ridge.

As detailed on the website it still maintains, the academy promised a curriculum that would bolster “strength of character” and “global awareness” – in addition to solid academics.

Mon’s BOE, however, said the academy’s 371-page application mainly fell short in most of those goals.

The academy countered by saying the noted deficiencies “were subjective,” at best.

At worst, the academy charged, neither Mon nor Preston’s school boards acted in accordance with the review process – saying both missed the 90-day deadline for voting after it was submitted last July 24.

Not responding, its board said, meant a conditional approval of the application, with the state Department of Education also inking a de facto approval.

Mon and Preston’s BOE, though, both said the meter actually started running Aug. 31, making the three-month mark at Nov. 30 – the day Mon’s school board officially said no to the academy.

In their opinion Tuesday, justices said the state department “didn’t have a legal duty” to approve or deny the application.

Academy lawyers May 4 argued before the court, though, in the call to have the decision overruled.

Mark Sadd told justices the dynamic was “like a giant game of Whack-A-Mole,” as he described the back-and-forth with his client, both school boards the state Department of Education.

Justice John Hutchison, though, wondered if the academy hadn’t run out of time on its own.

“Isn’t it true that as we stand here today, this case is really moot because you cannot, even if we were to grant your writ, you cannot meet the other standards and regulations to be ready to open a school on Aug. 1 of this year?”

Tuesday’s decision also comes on the legislative coattails of House Bill 2012, which would allow up to 10 charter school over the next three years – while creating a West Virginia Professional Charter School Board to do the heavy lifting during any approval process.

Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law in March.

West Virginia Academy President John Treu, who is also a WVU professor and dean, was philosophical in the face of those recent turns.

“While we certainly do not agree with the High Court’s decision, we must respect it and will deem the initial application window closed,” he said in a statement posted on the academy’s website.

“Of course, there’s always next year and with positive changes to the law there is now a path to open a charter school with the State Professional Charter School Board as the authorizer so that the local school boards are not involved.”

Treu in the post didn’t say if the academy would reapply.

“It’s certainly still a possibility that our governing board can consider in the coming weeks.”

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