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Arkansas organizations to apply for 16 new charter schools

Posted March 9

— Thirteen organizations have sent letters of intent to the Arkansas Department of Education as they begin applying for 16 new open-enrollment charter schools.

The letters include two for high schools, one for an elementary school, one for a middle school and two for kindergarten through eighth or ninth grades. Proposed locations of the schools would include Little Rock and Pine Bluff, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2mKDwX2 ) reported.

Charter schools are supported by taxpayers and are operated by a board of directors independent of the locally elected school boards in the surrounding traditional public school districts.

The letters of intent come amid the Little Rock School District deciding to close three of its campuses and re-purposing a fourth, which could leave three vacant schools in the 2017-18 school year.

None of the organizations that sent letters currently operate charter schools in the state. The groups include Zeal Ministries, Friendship Arkansas Inc., Aviate Through Knowledge Inc., ScholarMade Educational Services, and Transforming Life Ministries Care Center.

Scott Smith, executive director of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, which supports rural school systems and charter schools, said the number of letters shows ongoing interest. He said that's encouraging.

"It will be interesting to see how many applications come out of these letters of intent and what they look like," he said.

The state cap for charter schools is set at 29 for 2018-19 school year. Currently, there are 24 charter schools.

Full applications to operate charter schools are due to the department by April 27 for review. The state Charter Authorizing Panel and the Board of education will be making the final decision on the applications.

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