An increasingly popular form of alternative education may be making its way to Ardmore in the near future.
The HFV Wilson Community Center board of directors met on Wednesday for a special meeting to discuss a potential partnership with the Native American Community Academy Inspired Schools Network — a New Mexico based education organization aimed at providing an alternative style of learning to a community. To date, the organization has created seven charter schools, according to documents provided at the meeting.
Brett Stidham, an Ardmore native and school designer for the organization, spoke to the board about the possibility of the community center being host to a charter school. Stidham, a former teacher and administrator, explained that the school would be created using “a community led design process” and would aim to incorporate the needs of the community. The Ardmore Community Academy, or ACA, would open in the fall of 2018 if the logistics line up for its creation.
“I’ve seen what’s possible for our students and it’s just not happened,” Stidham said of bringing the school to Ardmore.
Charter schools have popped up across the state and nation, with many parents and communities advocating for more educational options for their students. The movement has also been met with some opposition nationally, as some argue that the schools take away the already thin funds from school districts.
Charter schools are, effectively, public schools from a funding standpoint — with state, federal and grant funds providing the capital for operation. Where the schools differ is in the methods, or styles, of teaching and accountability (charter schools are not required to adhere to some standards). Students would attend the school at no cost, just like a standard public school.
Charter schools receive funds through the state, based on a per-student formula, just like standard public schools.
Stidham said the organization will be submitting a charter application to Ardmore City Schools within the next week, which will start the ball rolling on creating the school. Stidham spoke to the board in order to test the waters of the school renting the community center as the location of the school for the next two years. Stidham said the school, potentially, will outgrow the facility in that time and will seek a larger facility.
To begin, Stidham said the school would welcome in students for grades pre-kindergarten and kindergarten — with 50 students in each class. The school would be open to any student in the Ardmore City Schools district. In the event that more students show interest than there are open spots, a lottery would be conducted to determine the students who can attend.
Stidham said as part of an agreement with the community center, various additions and changes to the center would be made, such as security upgrades. Two portable classrooms would also be added to the site on the east side of the center. The school would also likely pay a monthly rent for using the facilities, though the details of a contract haven’t been created yet.
Alicia Henry, executive director of the HFV Wilson Community Center, said the school would be during the regular daytime hours and would not interfere with other programs that happen at the facility.
“There are a lot of logistics we’d have to work out before the fall of 2018,” Teresa Ervin, Ardmore parks and recreation director, said of the program.
During the meeting, the board approved allowing Henry and a council to begin talks with the organization to draft a contract for the rental. Ervin said the contract could, potentially, have an annual renewal in the contract and the contract would, at most, be for two years.
Stidham said the organization, and other charter schools, have the goal of “pushing choice regardless of location” and provide a public option for parents “who just want to make a choice.”
Stidham said the organization will be submitting its application to ACS to begin the process within the week.