'Classical model' charter school OK'd for Las Vegas

CARSON CITY — A proposed Las Vegas charter school where students would learn Latin, read original Constitution documents and be required to acquire more credits to graduate than other schools won unanimous approval Friday from the state Public Charter School Authority.

“This is what you are looking for,” said Rich Moreno, Founders Academy board president. The school will begin as kindergarten through 10th grade in August. “A child needs an opportunity to reach for the stars.”

Besides high academic requirements, students would be instructed in moral character and civic virtue. The contract with the Charter School Authority will allow the school to add an 11th grade after one year of operation and a 12th grade after two years if its students meet academic requirements.

Moreno and several of the board members said the school will offer a classical model of education based on Hillsdale College, a small private college in southern Michigan known for its academics and conservative thinking.

Founders Academy board members include Las Vegas City Councilmen Bob Beers and Stavros Anthony, retired Clark County principal Ken Fowler and Jeff Geihs, academic manager of turnaround schools for the Clark County School District.

The board members said a school created in Fort Collins, Colo., in 2001 along the Hillsdale principles is ranked as the 15th best high school in the country. Three similar schools have been established since 2001 and others are in the works. One has a 90 percent minority population.

Hillsdale College would provide 11 days of on-site instruction to teachers before the school opens. Ultimately the school would have an enrollment of 750, but initially there would be only one or two classes of 27 students per grade during elementary years and 20 students in the seventh through 10th grades.

Teachers would strive to push students to work past their usual comfort levels, Moreno said.

Charter schools are considered public schools in Nevada. Money that the state would provide to a regular public school the student attends instead would go to the charter school. A little more than $5,000 a year is provided by the state for each student in public schools.

But a review team recommended that the Founders Academy should open as a kindergarten through eighth grade school and then add grades in subsequent years.

Beers, an accountant, said without the ninth and 10th grades the school plan “would not work financially.” He noted Hillsdale had worked with them on the school plan, which has high school certified teachers instructing some middle school students.

Although Charter School Authority board member Robert McCord repeatedly questioned how students starting in 10th grade could catch up with the five years of Latin requirement, he and other members backed the application.

Also Friday, the Charter School Authority denied an application for a Legacy International Charter School in Las Vegas that in part would cater to young athletes. A review team found deficiencies in the plans. With changes, the school could reapply.

The Charter School Authority also rejected an application for creation of a Mater Academy in Southern Nevada designed to serve students for whom English is their second language.

The group’s application lacked needed details, according to the review committee. Charter School Authority members encouraged Mater Academy board members to resubmit a more complete application.

The authority also denied an application for a Nevada State High School II charter school, which would be independent from the current successful Nevada State High School in Clark County. The board wants more information on how the new school would be governed.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com, or 775-687-3901.


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