Atlanta Classical Academy will get another chance at being approved as a charter school with the Atlanta Board of Education as its petition is scheduled to be considered at the board’s Aug. 12 meeting.
Matthew Kirby, chairman of the proposed school’s board, said he remains optimistic even though the petition was pulled from the board’s agenda July 1, with Superintendent Erroll Davis citing concerns about finding an adequate location for the school, which could be located in Buckhead.
“We hope we are going to get the endorsement from the superintendent,” Kirby said. “We’ve been working very close with his staff and feel like we have a real opportunity to be approved.”
District 4 board member Nancy Meister, who represents all Buckhead public schools, could not be reached for comment by phone and email regarding the upcoming vote.
Kirby said he and the rest of the academy’s board have faced difficulties in securing a location, with few vacant buildings in north Atlanta suitable for a school and the requirement to have a set location before getting an approved charter marking just two major obstacles they have come up against along the way.
“Every charter is asked to commit to a location before they are even funded or approved,” Kirby said. “It puts the ACA board in a very awkward position and it’s really not in the benefit of the taxpayers or the landlord. Right now, we are working with a number of organizations in the north Atlanta area that might have facilities that would suit part of or perhaps all of the first term of the charter.”
Despite making adjustments to the petition based on feedback from the district’s staff, Kirby said the petition has not deviated from the mission and vision of the academy’s board to establish a kindergarten through eighth-grade school with small class sizes — about 54 students per grade — focused on providing a classical education. The school was originally planned for K-10 but the Atlanta board suggested it be reduced to K-8.
If the academy does not get approval, Kirby said the said the school still has options. The academy could still appeal to Georgia’s alternate authorizer of charter schools, the newly established Georgia Charter Schools Commission, or wait another year before presenting the petition to the Atlanta board.
“We know there are a lot of families who are very interested in what we’re doing, so we feel an urgency in getting started,” Kirby said. “We really hope we don’t have to wait.”
If approved, Kirby said his goal is to have the school open to students in fall 2014.
“I think we really have a world-class plan,” he said. “I think we are going to get there.”
Academy board member and retired educator Lee Friedman, who was formerly principal of Sarah Smith Elementary School in Buckhead and worked for the district for almost 30 years, said the classical model produces bright young students with a strong focus on literature, history and civic responsibility.
He said he hopes the school gets to be a part of the district and offer a choice that reflects positively on it.
“We want to be good partners,” Freidman said. “We have worked very hard on that for the last two years.”