Approval of charter renewal by academy's Governing Council allows school to operate for two more school years

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FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Virtual Academy will operate for at least two more school years after the school's Governing Council approved a charter renewal with the Farmington Municipal School District today.

The online charter school will remain open for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, should it meet the requirements of the renewal agreement.

Cory Lee, NMVA Governing Council president, said he was happy that the Farmington school board changed its position on closing the online charter school and offered a two-year charter renewal with conditions.

"We're excited to work with Farmington municipal schools," Lee said. "We built a pretty good relationship, and we're excited to continue the relationship."

The online charter school opened in August 2012 after the Farmington school board approved its charter application during a September 2011 meeting. It serves students in sixth through 12th grade and has an enrollment cap of 500 students.

The Farmington school board members initially voted to deny the reauthorization of the five-year charter renewal for NMVA during a special meeting on Dec. 16.

At that meeting, district Superintendent Gene Schmidt recommended that the Farmington school board deny the authorization of the NMVA charter due to the school's poor performance in areas including student achievement and financial operations.

But the Farmington school board voted to approve a two-year charter renewal with NMVA during a Thursday board meeting. The charter renewal includes 25 conditions the virtual academy must meet to keep operating through the 2018-2019 school year.

Those conditions call for an improvement in student achievement and a stipulation that NMVA pursue a charter through another school district or through the state, according to a copy of the agreement.

Lee said he did not have any concerns about the requirements, stating most of the conditions were included in the initial charter contract when the school was created.

He added that the online charter school was originally intended to be chartered through the New Mexico Public Education Commission before the Farmington school board approved its charter.

As one of the conditions, NMVA must maintain or improve its current three-year average school grade of C from the New Mexico Public Education Department for the current school year and the 2017-2018 school year. Lee said he is not concerned about that requirement because the online charter school currently has a C letter grade average for the previous three school years.

During Thursday's Farmington school board meeting, Schmidt told board members the NMVA filed an appeal with the state education department and state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera regarding the denial of its charter renewal.

Lee confirmed the online charter school filed the appeal. He said the future of the appeal has not been determined and will be discussed at the next Governing Council meeting later this month.

NMVA Director Carla Morález said she has faith in the relationship between Farmington schools and the online charter school, and she will work to repair any problems that existed in the past.

"I have the utmost faith in the NMVA staff to improve on student achievement and graduation rates," Morález said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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