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Four charter schools could hit enrollment of 1,500

CHARLESTON — Enrollment in West Virginia’s four public charter schools could reach 1,500 as the final schools open for their first school year later this month.

Members of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board were updated on enrollment numbers during their Tuesday meeting.

Board Executive Director James Paul said the Morgantown-based West Virginia Academy, which began classes last week, has 470 students, while the Eastern Panhandle Prep Academy has a verified enrollment of 381 students.

There are two virtual charter schools. The West Virginia Virtual Academy has 159 confirmed students and the Virtual Prep Academy 104.

Paul said Eastern Panhandle and the two virtual schools all have Aug. 22 scheduled as the first day of classes.

During an appearance Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline,” Paul described charter schools, which were approved by state lawmakers, as tuition-free, independent public schools that receive more autonomy in exchange for more accountability.

Paul said each school has its own board and those boards have a charter with the state Professional Charter School Board on what is to be accomplished in the next five years. If it doesn’t happen, the schools could lose their charters.

“As long as each of the four schools honors the terms of their contracts we’re confident that parents are going to be very satisfied and that students are going to be connected to the education they need,” Paul said.

Paul said a lot will want to know how charter schools are doing.

“We know that we’re going to be watched closely but this isn’t really about pressure it’s about opportunity,” Paul said. “First of all, it’s about living up to exactly the intent of the charter law that was passed by the legislature.”

The schools are still hiring teachers as they face the same staffing challenges as other public schools, Paul said.

“I would expect that that’s a factor at some of our charter schools but I think that also some of the flexibility that these schools offer will be very attractive to teachers and I expect everything will be good to go by the end of the month,” Paul said.