Education

Could this be Kentucky’s first charter school? It just took a big first step.

Could Eastern Kentucky University’s semi-private Model Laboratory School become Kentucky’s first charter school?

The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents passed a resolution Wednesday allowing the administration to submit an application for Model, Kentucky’s only remaining Pre-K thru 12 university laboratory school, to become a charter school.

Since a law allowing public charter schools took effect earlier this year, Model Laboratory officials have been among the first in the state to publicly acknowledge that they are considering opening a charter school.

Kentucky’s first charter schools are expected to open next fall for the 2018-19 school year. Applications from people who want to open a public charter school can be filed with local school boards and the Lexington and Louisville mayor’s offices, as soon as charter school regulations are approved in early 2018 by state officials. EKU’s application for Model will be made to the Madison County School board, EKU spokeswoman Kristi Middleton said.

Erin Stewart, a spokeswoman for Madison County schools, said Thursday that the school board “has been anticipating the potential for charter schools in our community.”

Stewart said Madison County school board members “are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to review the final regulations, including what the funding sources will look like and what training will be offered to aid in the process.”

The EKU board’s resolution said that charter schools in Kentucky will provide “new, innovative and more flexible ways” of educating students, and that Model and EKU strive to stay on the cutting edge of ways to deliver quality education.

“There will be a lot of conversation moving forward to determine what is in the best interest of Model Laboratory School, its students and the continued partnership with Eastern Kentucky University,” David T. McFaddin, a vice president at EKU, said after the meeting. “The board recognizes there is great concern over the ability to allow current Model students to continue their education at the school they know and love, and any viable options will require consideration to accommodate existing students. We have a lot to explore in the weeks and months ahead.”

In establishing the university charter school, EKU’s administration will seek the guidance of industry professionals and staff in its College of Education, the resolution said.

Kentucky Department of Education officials did not immediately comment on the EKU decision. A public hearing on charter school regulations is scheduled for Nov. 21 in Frankfort.

A task force studying the future of Model made the recommendation Wednesday to EKU’s board.

Model is a unique school “and does not fit the standard definition or mold of any other school in the Commonwealth,” said an email from the task force that was sent Tuesday to stakeholders for Model. Wednesday’s recommendation is based on “information and definitions as they exist today.”

“The charter application was the most viable, enduring solution to the budgetary and facilities challenges at Model. The ultimate goal is to ensure that Model and its legacy continue to exist in the immediate and long-term future,” the email said.

Officials are looking at ways to allow current students not admitted through a charter lottery to maintain enrollment, the email said.

Designation as a charter school would provide access to additional resources of per-pupil funding from the state, the task force proposal to the board said. Those additional resources could be used to support funding for a new building. Model currently provides clinical experiences for EKU students.

Gray: School district will take lead

Although state law calls for the mayors of Lexington and Louisville to approve charter school applications along with local school boards, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said Wednesday that he wants Fayette school officials to take the lead.

“We want Lexington’s kids to have the best educational opportunities, which is why we’ve been working with Superintendent Caulk,” Gray said. “He earned valuable experience with charter schools earlier in his career and has a unique understanding of the educational challenges Lexington faces today. We believe the Fayette School system and the School Board, with Superintendent Caulk in the lead, are best equipped to process applications, and he agrees.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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