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FORT SMITH -- The School Board agreed Monday to vote at its Sept. 28 meeting on whether to support the opening of a charter school in the city.

The board questioned Trish Flanagan, founder of the proposed Future School, about plans for the open-enrollment school and how it could affect the School District.

Future School has applied with the Arkansas Department of Education for a charter. Flanagan said the school would differ from public schools by offering personalized learning plans, student-designed internships with area businesses and industries, and an adviser who would follow a student throughout his high school career.

Flanagan said the school would be for grades 10 to 12. The school would admit 150 students each year for three years, until it reached 450 students and filled all three grades.

Board members expressed concerns about the $975,000 in money the district would lose if 150 of its students went to the Future School. The state pays schools $6,500 per student per year.

Board President Deanie Mehl said the School District is unable to give raises to its teachers this school year but has managed to meet its expenses for about 30 years without a property tax increase.

Flanagan said Future School would provide options and innovations beneficial to students and parents said they want for their children.

Superintendent Benny Gooden told board members they should decide by the end of the month whether to support the charter school. The Education Department's Charter Authorizing Panel will consider the charter application at its meeting Oct. 14-15.

Department spokeswoman Kimberly Friedman said the panel will recommend to the state Board of Education whether to approve or reject the five-year charter, and the state board will have the final vote.

School Board member Rick Wade said he was concerned the school could draw away the district's best students.

Flanagan said Future School is an open-enrollment charter school, meaning school officials couldn't control what students get in. There's no criteria for enrollment, and it could run the gamut from excellent to poor students.

The school charter application said it would expect to draw students from Fort Smith, Van Buren, Alma, Hartford, Hackett, Mansfield, Greenwood and Lavaca school districts.

If more than 150 students applied, Flanagan said, they would be chosen by a lottery that would be audited by the state.

NW News on 09/17/2015

Print Headline: Fort Smith School Board schedules vote on charter

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