Governor Jim Justice signed House Bill 2012 in May of 2021, allowing for the establishment of up to 10 charter schools in West Virginia over the next decade. The law allows for two of these schools to operate as virtual programs that could enroll students residing anywhere in the state. The upper enrollment limit for the virtual charter schools (combined) is set at 5 percent of the statewide enrollment.
A New School Board
Unlike prior provisions for approving public charter schools in West Virginia, the law removed the necessity to obtain approval from a local school board and instead established a new West Virginia Professional Charter School Board to oversee new charter schools. Three organizations submitted applications to operate virtual charter schools to this new board, and on November 17, the board authorized West Virginia Virtual Academy and Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia as virtual public charter schools. Both of these organizations now have the opportunity to negotiate a contract to begin operations in the fall of 2022. The law specifies a ninety-day window for the sponsoring organization to negotiate and enter into a charter contract with the Professional Charter School Board.
A Lawsuit & Injunction
The status of these two virtual charters (and several other in-person charter schools also approved by the new board) were thrown into question on December 20, when Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a preliminary injunction to the approval process, stemming from a lawsuit filed by several parents and teachers objecting to the constitutionality of the new law. The plaintiffs are objecting to the new law on the basis that it conflicts with the requirement to obtain local approval before establishing any new public school in a district.By Staff Contributor