New charter school in West Virginia approved

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – West Virginia has approved its seventh charter school, the last to be operated by a community college with a focus on nursing education for high school juniors and seniors.

The state’s Professional School Charter Board approved the Workforce Initiative for Nurses Academy during a virtual meeting Wednesday. The 4-0 vote came a week after board members got bogged down in approving the school.

The school is operated by BridgeValley Community and Technical College. Its president, Casey Sacks, praised the board’s action.

“It’s unique,” she said of the school. “This is new in West Virginia. This means we can really engage and fully immerse students in an academic program.”

When fully operational, WIN Academy will offer 60 high school juniors and seniors a fast track to a two-year nursing degree. There are 30 students in each grade level.

The school’s pledge to host Grade 11 by fall 2024 was backed by two board members – Karen Bailey-Chapman and Brian Helton – on Wednesday. Both abstained last week, resulting in the proposal not gaining majority support.

Bailey-Chapman said any proposal approved by the board should be a charter school — not a charter class, a reference to WIN Academy’s initial focus on only high school seniors.

Afterwards, Bailey-Chapman also said she appreciated the increased accountability in the revised proposal, including a two-year charter as opposed to the typical five-year charter.

“I think a two-year program is really great and to be able to judge whether it’s successful or not,” she told WSAZ NewsChannel 3. “I think with everything in our lives we have to evaluate whether something is going well or maybe something that needs to be changed. That’s okay. This is not a failure. So life is.” Board Member Dewayne Duncan voted for WIN Academy at both meetings.

He on Wednesday encouraged his peers to look into what makes them different from traditional school.

“We don’t operate like you run a public school,” he told board members. “I just want to make sure we start a thought process and do things, but I don’t want us to tie the hands of these creative and innovative programs that we’re taking to the point where people will start, you know, I don’t want people to stop applying to become charter. I want them to see the freedom, the flexibility in them.”

Sacks said the same concept applies to parents who might consider WIN Academy.

“We just see a lot of students in West Virginia for whom that traditional high school experience doesn’t work,” she said. “If you think you might have a kid who wants to focus more on a career or is already talking about a career in healthcare, Nursing would be good for them if they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just want to go to work after that.’ School.’ That would really prepare someone for a job that pays way better than most.” She estimates that most graduates make $70,000 a year after graduation.

BridgeValley hopes to launch the WIN Academy website very soon. The school is scheduled to open in autumn 2023.

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