As school starts, enrollment for first charter schools grows

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Enrollment numbers for West Virginia’s first charter schools are becoming clearer as school gets underway, and a few more charter schools are expected to submit applications to start up next year.

West Virginia Academy in Morgantown started its academic year a few weeks ago with 470 students, according to figures from the West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board.

Eastern Panhandle Prep Academy has 330 students enrolled through the end of last week.

West Virginia Virtual Academy had 261 students enrolled.

Virtual Prep Academy has 192 enrolled.

James Paul

Those figures should be considered “with the virtual schools still expected to grow through September, and the virtual schools have seen their enrollments pick up,” said James Paul, executive director of the West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board.

Those numbers were presented during a regular meeting of the West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board, the group appointed by the governor to oversee the schools that are given greater operational latitude in exchange for the possibility of losing their right to operate if they fail.

Adam Kissel

Adam Kissel, the chairman of the board, wanted to know if those enrollment numbers were in line with expectations.

“So have we been seeing the kind of spike that the virtual schools have been predicting, or just a modified form of that spike?” Kissel asked.

Paul responded, “I would say there is certainly an increase. They are slightly behind projections that they provided in the early spring, but there has been significant growth. I mean, West Virginia Virtual Academy was at 159 at our last meeting and are now at 261. The VPA was at 104 at our last meeting and is now 192. And so we’re seeing growth.”

West Virginia has had no charter schools until now, after passing a state law allowing them in 2019.

The charter schools system and the Professional Charter Schools Board face a legal challenge that will go before the state Supreme Court.

A fifth that had been approved to open this year, Nitro Preparatory Academy, was delayed over its location this year and is planning to open next year instead.

This week marks the deadline for new applicants to open charter schools next year.

The leaders of the Professional Charter Schools Board said they expect two or three new applicants with different specializations.

“Last year we got some right up to the deadline so we’ll just have to see,” Kissel said.

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