Nitro Prep Academy won’t open until fall 2024 at earliest

Story by Brad McElhinny

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board is giving the Nitro Preparatory Academy another year to get going.

The Nitro Preparatory Academy was one of the first three “brick and mortar” charter schools approved in West Virginia in 2021. But by last spring, the academy had to delay its opening after a suitable location couldn’t be found.

Now, members of the Professional Charter Schools Board are saying the Nitro academy needs even more time, this time into 2024. During a meeting this morning, members agreed to grant that time but said that’s about the last extension that could be considered.

James Paul, executive director of the West Virginia Professional Charter Schools Board, told members that Nitro Preparatory Academy has asked for a contract amendment that would push back the opening date to fall 2024. That amendment would allow the contract to continue to span five years.

“Accel Schools, which would manage the charter school, reports that they have made progress on securing a building but they have not finalized that location yet,” Paul said. “They do expect to acquire on in the coming fall of 2023 and then be prepared to open in ’24,” he said.

“We want to see charter schools open, and we want more options to exist for families, of course. But we want the schools to open when they’re ready to open.”

Board member Dewayne Duncan did not object to the extension but questioned how much time the Nitro charter school might be given overall.

“I mean, I don’t think they can keep coming back year after year,” he said. “I think we will have other schools starting to emerge as they hear about the success of schools and school choice and parents having another option. We can’t just in perpetuity give an extension, but I think one year would be OK if they’re really sincere about finding a place to be.”

Another board member, Karen Bailey-Chapman, agreed.

“I think one more year is fine, but beyond that we’re going to have to rethink it probably.”

Board chairman Adam Kissel said the instruction to Nitro Preparatory Academy’s organizers should be that “this is the last year that we intend to delay.”

West Virginia had no charter schools until passing a state law allowing them in 2019. Charter schools would receive financial support from the state’s public education system and would be given greater operational latitude in exchange for the possibility of losing their right to operate if they fail.

Board member Duncan expressed regret that the Nitro charter school has not been able to open so far, saying the Kanawha Valley would benefit.

“I think we desperately need one in our area,” he said, “so I’m very hopeful and optimistic that they will get things together and find a place.”