Education board to hear Haas Hall Springdale plans

Ozark Montessori Academy placed on probation

Posted: June 9, 2016 at 4:56 p.m.

Haas Hall in Fayetteville.

The Arkansas State Board of Education is giving Haas Hall Academy representatives another opportunity to present plans to open a charter school in Springdale.

The board voted Thursday to hear the Haas Hall presentation at its July 14 meeting. The Charter Authorizing Panel denied the request last month.

Mark Henry, an attorney for the school, said during the meeting Haas Hall leaders decided to push the requested start date for a Jones Center location back a year. He said they hope to open in the fall of 2017.

Haas Hall also will appeal the panel’s denial to increase the enrollment cap from 400 to 500 at the Fayetteville campus. Jay Barth, a board member, also requested a review of the approved proposal to give enrollment preference to siblings of Haas Hall students.

Jared Cleveland, Springdale School District’s deputy superintendent, objected to the proposed Springdale location at the May panel meeting. He said at today’s meeting he was encouraged that Haas Hall pushed back the proposed opening date.

The department today also placed Ozark Montessori Academy, a public open-enrollment charter school in Springdale, on probation for violating state accreditation standards.

It was the only school from Benton or Washington County to be among 11 schools across the state be placed on place on probation today. The 2015-16 school year was the first year for Ozark Montessori Academy, which had an enrollment of about 140 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The school violated state standards for class sizes in the first through third grades, according to information from the department. State standards require an average student-teacher ratio of 23 students per teacher but no more than 25 students in any one classroom.

The academy has classrooms of mixed ages and for 2015-16 had two classrooms of 27 students in first through third grades, said Christine Silano, executive director of Ozark Education, Inc., the school’s sponsoring organization. Silano staffed each of the classrooms with two adults, providing for a ratio of one teacher for every 14 students. Each grade level had 18 students.

With the ratio meeting the requirements, Silano thought her classrooms were in compliance, she said.

Silano could have requested a class size waiver, but thought it wasn’t necessary, she said. During the application process, she had input from the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, the education department’s charter school division and the state Charter Authorizing Panel.

“Nobody picked this up,” she said. “That was very frustrating.”

Silano said she plans to reduce class sizes a little bit for the 2016-17 school year and will request the state Charter Authorizing Panel grant a class size waiver at its September meeting.