The panel approves the online plans of 7 charters


The state charter clearance committee on Tuesday gave its preliminary approval to distance learning plans proposed by seven open enrollment and conversion charter school operators.

This latest group of newly approved e-learning plans will now be submitted to the Arkansas Board of Education for final approval to run into the next school year 2021-22 and for up to two years beyond.

Distance learning plans were approved by the panel on Tuesday for:

• Founders Classical Academy High, recently renamed in Bentonville, and Founders Classical Academy-West Little Rock. Both campuses serve students in grades 7 to 12. The schools were previously the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy and the Quest Academy of West Little Rock.

• Bauxite Miner Academy in the Bauxite School District, which also requested and obtained preliminary approval for an increase in the enrollment cap from 250 to 300, and the addition of Kindergarten to Grade 5 classes in the school charter which served grades six to twelve.

• Cave City Middle School Career and Collegiate Preparatory for grades 6-8 and Cave City High School Career and Collegiate Preparatory for grades 9-12.

• North Little Rock Center of Excellence serving Grades 9 to 12 students in the North Little Rock School District.

• Hot Springs World Class High School serving Grades 10-12 and Hot Springs Junior Academy serving Grades 7-8.

• Prairie Grove Charter High School which serves grades 9 to 12 students.

• Arkansas Arts Academy Elementary in Rogers which serves Kindergarten to Grade 6 and Arkansas Arts Academy High School from Grades 7 to 12.

The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education and the State Board of Education in January invited school districts and charter systems to submit applications to institute virtual education plans for at minus the upcoming 2021-22 school year. More than 150 of the state’s 262 districts and charter systems responded.

Distance learning plans are tied to state waivers of rules and laws that limit class sizes to 30 students, limit teacher workload to 150 students, require 120 hours of instruction per course, and six-hour teaching days, set student attendance requirements and require a minimum number of recess minutes.

Not all distance learning plans – which were reviewed by a team of 16 state agency staff – do not incorporate all of the waivers.

The 2021-22 distance learning plans – for families who choose to have their children teach outside of the traditional classroom – come after the 2020-21 school year in which all campuses were opened to students, but many districts were also offering online education as a way to fight the spread of the covid-19 virus.

About 21% or about 97,000 of the state’s more than 470,000 students used distance education in the past school year.

Newly published results of the state-required ACT Aspire exams in reading, English, math and science showed declining statewide student achievement at the end of the 2020 pandemic school year -21 compared to the results of the 2018-19 school year. The exams were not given in the spring of 2020 because schools were closed to on-site teaching in March of the same year and the tests were canceled.

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