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Virtual charter school on track to open in W. Va.

CHARLESTON — More than 100 students have applied for the first of two virtual charter schools in West Virginia.

The board that oversees the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia met Tuesday to discuss a launch update before classes can begin.

Educational Service Provider Shannon McElwain told the board, as of Tuesday morning, there were 156 active applications in the system and they’re predicting about 360 will be enrolled for the first school year.

“Where do we think we will be? That is that estimated 360. This is just an initial estimation and it does not cap or limit in any way,” McElwain said.

Of all grade levels, McElwain pointed out that more younger students are interested in virtual charter schools.

“It’s not unusual for us to [see] high levels of interest in kindergarten and that is through the grade level where we have the most applications,” she said.

One of the board’s top priorities will be to make sure special education needs are met.

“We look at those students who have answered the application questions regarding special education services,” McElwain said. “We pull those into the dashboard so that we’re aware how many students we need to screen as soon as they start for English, language learning needs or if we need to be prepared to staff for special education services.”

Student homelessness is also considered during the application process.

“There are some questions in the application that get at a student’s current living situation. It acts as a flag for us that we may need to do additional follow up to ascertain if a student qualifies under the federal definition of homeless youth because there are additional services and support that we, as a school, are required to provide to those students,” McElwain said.

The state Professional Charter School Board previously approved three physical charter schools last year: The Nitro Preparatory Academy in Kanawha County, the Panhandle Preparatory Academy in Jefferson County and the West Virginia Academy in Monongalia County.

A second virtual charter school, Mountain State Learning Solutions, also called West Virginia Virtual Academy, expects to enroll about 500 students.

The application deadline for new public charter schools for the
2023-24 school year is Aug. 31.