The Arkansas Board of Education on Thursday approved plans for a fifth Haas Hall Academy charter school campus to open in the 2023-24 school year in Fort Smith.
The new school will operate in affiliation with the private Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.
The Education Board unanimously approved the proposal for the seventh-through-12th-grade school for up to 500 students on the recommendation of the state's Charter Authorizing Panel. The panel had done a review of the Haas Hall application earlier this year.
The state Education Board also gave final approval to additional recommendations from the charter panel:
• The five-year renewal of the state-issued charter for the four existing Haas Hall campuses in Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville and Rogers, including an increase in the overall student enrollment cap from 2,000 to 2,500.
• A location change for the Premier High School of Fort Smith that will open in August.
• The combining of the two charters for the Premier High School of Little Rock and Premier High School of Fort Smith into one charter for a system that will be known as the Premier High Schools of Arkansas.
• The addition to the Premier High Schools of Arkansas charter a Premier High satellite campus in Texarkana.
The state Education Board has the authority to approve Charter Authorizing Panel recommendations without a review or it can choose to conduct its own review of the proposals before making final decisions.
Martin Schoppmeyer Jr., the founder of the high-achieving, award-winning Haas Hall Academy system, told the Education Board on Thursday that he anticipates the new school's partnership with a medical school will result in Haas Hall graduates majoring in medicine.
"We have a lovely facility that is going to be built up for us," Schoppmeyer said. "It is a perfect storm for Haas Hall."
Schoppmeyer has said that the proposed school in Fort Smith would serve students in grades seven through 11 in its first year of operation in 2023-24, and top out at 500 students in seventh-through-12th grades the following year and each year thereafter.
The school is to be located on an upper floor of a former corporate office building at 1000 Fianna Way. Other floors will be occupied by the Research Institute and Health Wellness Center that is an arm of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, which operates the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith.
Haas Hall will pay an annual rent of $360,000 for 60,000 square feet of the building.
Schoppmeyer has said the Haas students will interact with the medical science researchers as part of the Haas Hall program and that the medical organization is providing some of the technology for the planned charter school.
Regarding the Premier High School of Fort Smith, the Education Board gave final approval to the school's proposed location at 3400 Rogers Avenue after questions were resolved about the campus' proximity to a Dollar General store that sells alcohol.
Doralee Chandler, director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, wrote to the Charter Authorizing Panel last month to say that a retail liquor permit may not be issued to an entity that is within 1,000 feet of a school or church property. But, she said, that prohibition does not apply to businesses -- such as a grocery store -- that sell beer or wine for off-premises use.
"Specifically, Retail Liquor permits are the permits that are associated with 'liquor stores,'" Chandler wrote. "As such, there are no distance requirements for any establishment unless they possess a Retail Liquor Permit."
The charter panel and ultimately the Education Board voted to support the Premier High of Fort Smith location based on Chandler's letter.
Sponsored by Responsive Education Solutions of Texas, the school is designed to serve a maximum 300 ninth through 12th graders.
The Education Board also gave final approval to plans regarding a proposed Premier High School location for up to 75 high school students at 3216 Stateline Road in Texarkana.
That satellite campus is to open in August to serve as a second-chance school for students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of traditional high school programs.
The satellite campus will be part of the newly named Premier High Schools of Arkansas charter system.
The system will include the soon-to-open Fort Smith campus as well as the existing Premier High of Little Rock that can serve up to 250 students. Premier High Schools in Springdale and North Little Rock could be added to the charter system after the expiration of grants that make it necessary that they retain their individual state-issued charters.