- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi’s fourth charter school will delay its opening until fall 2017.

Marian Schutte, executive director of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, said operator RePublic Schools notified the board of the delay earlier this month.

RePublic, based in Nashville, Tennessee, will proceed with plans to open a school serving grades 5-8 in north Jackson. However, it will delay plans to open a second school serving grades K-8 on the same campus. The second school, to be called Joel E. Smilow Collegiate, would be the organization’s first school serving lower elementary grades. RePublic Founding Director Ravi Gupta said the group wants more time to refine its plans for teaching younger children.

“Elementary is a new model for us,” Gupta said. “We haven’t done elementary before, and I’m just not sure we have an airtight plant to start an excellent school.”

Gupta said RePublic is examining school models to allow for more creativity and collaboration, different than its strictly structured middle schools.

The organization opened Reimagine Prep, one of Mississippi’s first two charter schools, in south Jackson in August. That school has only fifth-graders this year but plans to serve grades 5-8. A second 5-8 school, Midtown Public Charter School, also opened in Jackson in August.

The delay comes as state leaders could consider easing some rules governing charter schools. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other charter school supporters say they want to allow students to cross district lines to attend charter schools in other public school districts. Because many Mississippi districts are small, the prohibition on crossing district lines is one factor making locations in rural areas unattractive to charter schools.

RePublic is going ahead with plans to open a second 5-8 school in August, which it will call Joel E. Smilow Prep.

Both the middle school and the K-8 school would be named for Joel Smilow, the former chairman and CEO of Playtex Products, who has pledged $1 million in support. RePublic Founding Director Ravi Gupta has said his organization is interested in serving younger students to raise academic achievement levels at younger ages. That in turn would allow a more expansive curriculum in place of one now focused on remediation.


Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. Read his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy

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