West Virginia Approves Charter School for Nursing Education | News, Sports, Jobs

CHARLESTON – After giving program leaders a week to address concerns, the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board approved Wednesday an application for the state’s first charter school dedicated to nursing education.

The board voted unanimously to approve an application submitted by the Workforce Initiatives for Nursing Academy, a public charter school proposed by BridgeValley Community and Technical College based in South Charleston.

The original WIN Academy proposal would start a charter school for 30 high school seniors from a 10-county region for an accelerated nursing program, allowing students to complete the first year of an associate degree registered nurse program through BridgeValley. The program is aimed at combating the state’s nursing shortage.

But during a Nov. 15 meeting of the PCSB, the board was split 2-2 on approving the WIN Academy charter school application. Board Chairman Adam Kissel and board member Dewayne Duncan voted to approve the application, while board members Karen Bailey-Chapman and Brian Helton abstained.

Concerns raised last week centered on the WIN Academy’s focus only on high school seniors. Bailey-Chapman, speaking during Wednesday’s meeting, also raised concerns about being able to track metrics for the success of the WIN Academy program.

“We’re here to consider charter schools, not charter grades. Having just the 12th-grade program was something that was a little problematic for me,” Bailey-Chapman said. “One of the concerns I also had with this 12th-grade-only before they go into the college was there were no metrics or accountability…what are we going to judge this by? Is it working, or is it just an easy first-year tuition paid for via the charter school?”

Officials with the WIN Academy/BridgeValley amended their application to address these concerns. The charter school will now serve high school seniors and juniors, increasing its maximum enrollment from 30 students to 120 students, beginning with 60 students to start and expanding to 120 students after year five.

Juniors in the WIN Academy program would take preparatory programs to prepare them for the first year of an associate degree registered nursing program during their senior year.

“The intention of the program is to encourage WIN Academy high school graduates to then complete BridgeValley’s associate degree in nursing one year after high school graduation,” according to the WIN Academy’s updated application. “If successful, the WIN Academy will help a small cohort of young students finish the full nursing program at a younger age, which will help the larger workforce shortage of registered nurses – which is a high-demand/high-wage position in West Virginia.”

If the WIN Academy is successful, BridgeValley may consider expanding the program to include early-degree programs ranging from information technology, manufacturing, and business.

“I’m really happy with also some of the accountability and metrics … so that we can sort of see and make sure we can measure the progress and success of these students and ensure that the program is working as currently designed,” Bailey-Chapman said.

Board member Dewayne Duncan approved of the amended WIN Academy application but raised concerns to his fellow board members about possibly over-regulating charters and putting a damper on innovation.

“I want to make sure we put processes in place and do things, but I don’t want us to bind the hands of these creative, innovative programs,” Duncan said. “I don’t want people to stop applying to become charters. I want them to see the freedom and the flexibility. I want them to know that it exists in West Virginia; that we’re not just trying to turn them into a public school.”

With the approval of the WIN Academy, which will begin in the fall of next year, the state now has four physical public charter schools and two statewide virtual public charter schools. The PCSB approved the application last week for the M.E.C.C.A. Business Learning Institute (MBLI), which will serve students in Berkeley County next year.

West Virginia’s first charters, the Monongalia County-based West Virginia Academy and the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy, opened brick-and-mortar schools earlier this fall. The state also opened two virtual charters, the West Virginia Virtual Academy and the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia.

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