The board responsible for the new statewide virtual charter school met for the first time Monday morning — just months before classes are set to begin.
After being hung up by a legal challenge, the school board has a chance to hear for the first time about all the decisions it will be making in the coming weeks.
The school board should submit its charter school application to its sponsoring board — the state Board of Education — by the end of April, said Kim Richey, general counsel for the state Education Department.
Contractors that will provide classes need to be found immediately if school is to start in the fall, she said.
“If it's our intention to get up and running by next year, we are working on a very short time frame,” Richey said.
The board has all kinds of particulars to decide, said Stephanie Moser-Goins, an assistant general counsel for the Education Department.
How will attendance be measured? What happens if a student's home has a power outage? How can students with disabilities be accommodated? What about students who are learning to speak English?
Sorting out the details will be time-consuming, but it is important work, said John Harrington, chairman of the school board.
“There's a great opportunity for our state to provide this resource to our communities, our families, our children,” Harrington said. “There's a lot of work that has to happen to get this up and running.”
Lawsuit caused delay
The school board has a narrow time frame because of a lawsuit involving the bill that created the school in the first place, said Richey, the general counsel.
The statewide virtual charter school was mandated by a bill authored last year by Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.
In the final days of the legislative session last year, lawmakers tacked on a $30 million allocation for textbooks to Stanislawski's bill.
The amendment came up because state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi announced that she planned to shuffle a third of the $33 million in state funds allocated for textbooks into other programs.
Lawmakers passed the charter school proposal with the textbook amendment. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law in June, and it went into effect July 1.
Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent filed a lawsuit Oct. 31 with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Fent accused legislators of lumping together proposals that dealt with more than one subject into a single bill. The practice, often called logrolling, is banned by the state constitution.
But Assistant Attorney General Nancy Zerr said the issues were related because they fell into the same category: education.
On Dec. 4, the state Supreme Court voted 5-4 not to hear the lawsuit.
Two now in place
Oklahoma has two online charter schools now, said Derrel Fincher, director of instructional technology for the Education Department.
Epic One-on-One Charter School had about 1,400 students enrolled last year, according to Education Department data. The school received a D under the state A-F school evaluation system. The school's parent district, Graham Public Schools, has about 260 students and also received a D.
Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy had about 500 students enrolled last year, according to Education Department data. The school received a C under the state A-F school evaluation system. The school's parent district, Choctaw-Nicoma Park Schools, has about 9,500 students and received a B.
CONTRIBUTING: STAFF WRITER MICHAEL MCNUTT