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First Charter Schools In W.Va. Begin Inaugural Fall Terms

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West Virginia’s first four charter schools have opened their doors to students.

Three schools began their fall term Monday, including the brick-and-mortar Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy along with online schools West Virginia Virtual Academy and the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia. The Morgantown-based West Virginia Academy opened its doors on Aug. 2.

These are the first schools that have opened since a 2019 state law allowed charter schools in the state. A fifth school, Nitro Preparatory Academy, was also set to open this fall, but zoning-related delays have pushed back its opening date by one year.

The Kanawha County Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction halting the creation of the state's five charter schools in December of last year, but The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued a stay against the injunction in February, laying the groundwork for each school to remain in session starting this month.

“This state is no different than any other when it comes to charter school law. It takes a minute or two for the legislation to come into place,” said Sharon Williams, superintendent of Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy. “And I've been in charter schools for over 20 years. And so I get it.”

James Paul, the executive director of the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board, says the schools promote individual choice in education, while those opposed to charter school programs say they undermine public education by removing funding from local systems.

“We're excited that there's increased educational options, and more opportunities for families to find schools that are going to provide great opportunities for kids,” Paul said.

Around 1,100 students are projected to be attending the schools statewide, with official attendance data set to be released in early October.

Eastern Panhandle Reporter, ssnyder@wvpublic.org, 304-449-4653

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