An application for a charter school near Falls Church received the Virginia Board of Education’s authorization on Thursday.
The application is the first Fairfax County-based charter to be approved through the state’s new review process, and the second passed by the Board of Education. The other school, Buffalo Creek School in Rockbridge County, was approved earlier this year.
As a part of a 2011 General Assembly decision, all charter school applications must be approved by the state board before going to the local boards.
J.E.B. Stuart High School teacher Eric Welch is leading an effort to establish a small charter school in the Falls Church area to bolster achievement among at-risk students. The proposed school would serve 450 students (at full capacity) in grades seven through 12.
The school, which would be called the Fairfax Leadership Academy, would offer courses on career building skills and college prep, in addition to the standard curriculum, said Welch, who would serve as executive director and chairman of the board of directors.
Plans also call for longer school days — eight hours compared to seven in regular high schools — and a year-round academic calendar, raising the number of in-class days from 183 to 206. The planned opening date for the charter school is Aug. 12, 2013.
“The committee was very excited about this application. We were particularly pleased that it came from teachers,” said Board of Education member K. Rob Krupicka of Alexandria, who was appointed in 2009 and serves as chair of the Charter School Committee. Although the application was approved by the state board, members said the final approval would come from Fairfax County School Board.
Krupicka said some community members opposed to the school were concerned about how it would interact with the community and affect funding at the local level.
“There is a reason the local governing authority has the right to make the ultimate decision, so they can wrestle with those types of decisions [like resource allocation decisions],” he said.
Among those serving on the Fairfax Leadership Academy’s Board of Directors is Del. Kaye Kory (D-Dist. 38) of Falls Church.
“I am firmly convinced that charter schools are a part of the education spectrum,” she said.
Fairfax Leadership Academy’s application, with a recommendation for approval by the state board, will be forwarded to the School Board for review. No date for review by the Fairfax County School Board has been set.