Academy to seek charter status
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

HOPE – The Hope Public Schools will ask the Arkansas Department of Education in August to grant conversion charter school status to its new Hope Academy of Public Service.

A community hearing on the proposed application is scheduled for July 28 at 6 p.m. in the Hope High School Auditorium, according to Hope Superintendent Bobby Hart.

“Charter approval would grant HAPS the flexibility to grow and establish systems and structures that would allow students, parents, and teachers to make decisions about learning that are student-centered and promote success,” Hart said.

The community hearing will be for all parents of HAPS students, Academy students, teachers and the general public, as required by ADE rules.

“Application must be submitted by Aug. 4 and the Charter Authorizing Panel would then make a decision as to the suitability of the request,” Hart said. “The public meeting concerning the application is one of the first steps in the application process.”

Hart said the application is the first for a campus in the Hope district, and Principal Dr. Carol Ann Duke said the move is designed to provide additional flexibility for the blended-learning environment at the new school.

“My understanding of what this means is it will allow us a more specific application process and within the standards, more college course credit,” Duke said.

She said the conversion charter status will also provide for a more flexible class day, and offer specific waiver opportunities to other standard requirements.

“We are still held to the same assessment standards, having the same highly-qualified teacher requirements,” she said.

According to the ADE’s website information regarding charter schools, the concept is considered as a performance-based “contract” between the school district and the Arkansas Board of Education or its commissioner.

Charter status, once granted, is applicable for five years, according to the ADE website.

The move comes on the heels of the ADE granting the HAPS campus its own Local Education Agency number.

“The significance there is that it electronically starts to tie students to that building and physically enrolling and scheduling students to that campus,” Hart said. “It now validates that it is a Pre-K/5-8 campus.”

That designation stems from the operation of the Hope ABC Preschool on the same campus grounds, and the HAPS in the historic Garland/HAPS building on Sixth Street in Hope.

“It is essentially a record-keeping piece, but a very important record-keeping piece, because if you don’t have it, you are not recognized as a bona fide school by the state,” he said.

Classes at the HAPS are set to begin Aug. 15.