Education, Latest News

Morgantown charter school plans an expansion to Preston

The West Virginia Academy, the state’s first brick-and-mortar charter school, is expanding its Morgantown campus to Preston County.

“This is a second campus and not a campus move,” board chairman John Treu said of the project set to begin in 2024.

The academy, which just completed its inaugural school year at its main building on Chestnut Ridge Road, will branch into the current Preston County Youth Center in Masontown, Treu said, with the aim of adding more classrooms and a sports facility on its grounds.

Treu called the infrastructure overture “a substantial and transformational gift and partnership” that he said will only add to the academy’s academic mission.

That partnership includes an additional donation of 20 acres currently owned by Glenn Larew and Coaltrain Corp., he said, along with another in-kind offering from Bionic Tire Recycling, which will provide construction materials.

Besides reconfiguring the youth center for at least four classrooms, the academy wants to build the additional, stand-alone campus on the adjacent 20-acre expanse.

The youth center already boasts basketball and volleyball courts, Treu said, with plans now being drawn up for track and field, soccer and swimming.

After two years of legal wrangling and court challenges, West Virginia Academy welcomed its first-ever students this past Aug. 3 for its first-ever day of school.

The academy’s main building is a WVU research facility at 763 Chestnut Ridge Road — with no plans of relocating anytime soon, Treu said.

“We’ll continue to operate moving forward,” he said of the Morgantown campus.

However, he said, it will do so at nearly full capacity this fall.

The academy closed out the 2022-23 year with 303 students, he said, with an additional 62 set to come in this fall, making for a total enrollment of 365.

That’s in a building originally set up for 400 students — and it doesn’t count the 20 students already enrolled in preschool or the others on waiting lists for the other grades.

“This addition means we will turn fewer scholars away,” Treu said of the Preston plans.

“We’re definitely excited about the response from families.”

The academy’s current students come from across Morgantown and Monongalia County, Treu said.

Others hail from neighboring Marion County and the Bruceton area of Preston County.

Its inaugural first day of class came as West Virginia’s public schools — and public-school districts across the nation — were bemoaning all-time low assessments in reading and math scores.

The culprit, education officials here and elsewhere said, was the coronavirus.

Mounting COVID cases in the spring of 2020 forced most of the country’s districts to go to remote learning for better than a year, which resulted in the inevitable learning loss, they said.

Treu and other charter proponents here and across the country countered, though, by saying the nation’s public districts were already floundering — pandemic or no.

Especially in places such as the Mountain State, Treu said, where many households can’t afford after-hours tutors or alternatives to public school.

“We appreciate the historical nature of our school’s opening,” he said last August, as students rolled up for their first day in the building.

“This is the first time many parents and families have ever had meaningful choice in public education.”

TWEET @DominionPostWV