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Nitro charter postponement pic

Nitro Preparatory Academy, which was planned to be one of West Virginia’s first charter schools, will not open this fall. It originally planned to locate in the former Nitro High building.

One of the first five charter schools approved to open in West Virginia, and the only brick-and-mortar one in Kanawha County, won’t open this fall.

The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board, which can authorize charters to open statewide, approved delaying its contract with Nitro Preparatory Academy for a year on Wednesday.

It was a voice vote, with no dissent. All four board members were present.

The academy’s application said the school planned to serve 600 students, kindergarten through eighth grade, at full capacity. Plans to open in the former Nitro High building fell through.

Courtney Harritt — spokeswoman for Accel Schools, the company that would have run the charter on a daily basis — cited insufficient parking to meet the city of Nitro’s requirements. But neither the charter nor Accel applied to the city for an exemption.

A couple of the charter’s board members cited additional issues, including water leak damage.

Accel then said it was looking into other locations, including space BridgeValley Community and Technical College plans to vacate in Montgomery. That location would have been about 40 miles from Nitro.

“They are still deciding what building will best serve their students,” state charter school board chairman Adam Kissel said Wednesday.

Christopher Anderson, chairman of the academy’s board, emailed a statement to the Gazette-Mail.

“Our board is pleased that our authorizing board has granted us a one-year deferral to open our charter school,” Anderson wrote. “Our board and Accel representatives will continue to review multiple locations in Kanawha County, as well as be willing to entertain new locations that come to our attention.”

Harritt wrote in an email that, “We continue to evaluate potential school properties, but unfortunately it can be a lengthy process, and we felt like the timeline was becoming unfavorable for a Fall 2022 opening.”

She wrote that Accel is “still very interested in” the BridgeValley buildings.

An unchanged part of the contract the state charter board previously approved with Nitro Preparatory Academy says that, despite the name, the state board can approve a different location. The board approved all of Kanawha and Putnam counties as the academy’s “primary recruitment area.”

Part of a private international company called Pansophic Learning, Accel is still planning to open two other charters in West Virginia, Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy and the statewide online Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia.

Harritt said “enrollment is looking strong” with more than 200 accepted applications for each of those schools.

The other two charters planning to open this fall are West Virginia Academy in Morgantown and the statewide online West Virginia Virtual Academy.

The Republican-controlled Legislature legalized charters in 2019, although, at first generally, only county boards of education could approve them to open. All five approved to open so far were authorized by the unelected state charter school board, which lawmakers created in 2021.

Ryan Quinn covers education. He can be reached at 304-348-1254 or Follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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