CHARLESTON — After giving program leaders a week to address concerns, the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board on Wednesday approved an application for the state’s first charter school dedicated to nursing education.
The board voted unanimously to approve a Workforce Initiatives proposal for Nursing Academy, a public charter school proposed by South Charleston-based BridgeValley Community and Technical College.
WIN Academy’s original proposal would have opened a charter school for 30 high school seniors from a 10-county region for an accelerated nursing program that would have allowed students to complete the first year of a registered nursing associate degree program through BridgeValley. The program aims to combat the country’s nursing shortage.
But during a PCSB meeting on November 15, the board was split 2-2 on approving the motion to create a WIN Academy. Board Chairman Adam Kissel and Board Member Dewayne Duncan voted to approve the motion, while Board Members Karen Bailey-Chapman and Brian Helton abstained.
Concerns raised last week centered on WIN Academy’s focus on high school seniors only. Bailey-Chapman also raised concerns about the ability to track metrics for the success of the WIN Academy program during Wednesday’s meeting.
“We are here to consider charter schools, not charter grades. Just having the 12th grade program was something that was a little problematic for me.” said Bailey Chapman. “One of the concerns I had with that 12th grade as well — just before they go to college, was that there weren’t any metrics or accountability… how are we going to judge that?” Does it work or is it just a simple first tuition paid through the charter school?”
WIN Academy/BridgeValley officials modified their application to address these concerns. The Charter School will now serve senior and junior high school seniors and will increase its maximum enrollment from 30 students to 120 students, starting with 60 students initially and expanding to 120 students after the fifth year.
Juniors in the WIN Academy program attended preparatory programs to prepare them in their senior year for the first year of an associate degree-registered nursing program.
“The intent of the program is to encourage WIN Academy graduates to pursue BridgeValley’s Associate Degree in Nursing one year after high school.” according to the updated application of WIN Academy. “If WIN Academy is successful, it will help a small group of young students complete the full nursing program at a younger age, which will help address the larger registered nurse labor shortage—a high-demand, high-paying position in West Virginia.”
If WIN Academy is successful, BridgeValley may consider expanding the program to include early-stage information technology, manufacturing and business education.
“I’m also really happy with some accountability and metrics … so that we can kind of see the progress and success of those students and make sure we can measure the progress and success of those students and make sure the program is working the way it’s currently designed.” .” said Bailey Chapman.
Board member Dewayne Duncan approved WIN Academy’s amended motion but raised concerns with fellow board members about the potential for over-regulation of the charters and a damper on innovation.
“I want to make sure we put processes in place and we do things, but I don’t want us to tie the hands of these creative, innovative programs.” said Duncan. “I don’t want people to stop applying to become a charter. I want them to see the freedom and the flexibility. I want them to know it exists in West Virginia; that we’re not just trying to turn it into a public school.”
With the approval of WIN Academy, which will begin next fall, the state now has four physical public charter schools and two statewide virtual public charter schools. The PCSB last week approved the application for the MECCA Business Learning Institute (MBLI), which will serve students in Berkeley County next year.
West Virginia’s first charters, Monongalia County-based West Virginia Academy and Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy, opened residential schools earlier this fall. The state also opened two virtual charters, the West Virginia Virtual Academy and the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia.