Columbus group's charter school application denied

June 2, 2014 11:46:45 AM

William Browning - [email protected]


Columbus will not be home to one of the first charter schools in Mississippi. 


The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board voted today to reject a proposal that would have brought a charter school to Columbus next year. 


The Columbus Coalition for Educational Options had applied to the state in January hoping to open Inspire STEM & Arts Scholars Academy. Charter schools are publicly funded and do not charge tuition. They are run by private groups that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for less regulation.  


The proposed Columbus school -- which would have opened full-time in the fall of 2015 and been located at Genesis Church -- was was one of three finalists chosen in April from 12 applications from the around the state. The other two finalist were in Natchez and Jackson.  


The authorizer board met at 10 a.m. today at the IHL Board Room at the Universities Center in Jackson with the intention of approving or declining the three proposed schools. The seven-person board unanimously voted against the Columbus group's application. It also rejected the Natchez school, called Phoenix Early College Charter School. It approved the Jackson school, called ReImagine Prep. 


Darren Leach, who was listed as the executive officer for Inspire STEM & Arts Scholars Academy on the group's application, previously told The Dispatch that the proposed Columbus school hoped to offer better options to students and parents in Columbus. The school's curriculum would have focused heavily on arts and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, according to its application. 


The plan was for Inspire STEM & Arts Scholars Academy to offer kindergarten through third grade classes, as well as a ninth grade, in the first year of operation, and add additional grades each year. 


Mississippi lawmakers expanded authority for charter schools in 2013. The board is allowed, per state law, to approve 15 charter schools each year. 


See Tuesday's Dispatch for more on this story. 


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.