Maybe it was just too much, too soon.
That’s one reason principal Byron Richardson said his highly touted Leadership Academy of Nevada, one of two new charter schools slated to open in Centennial Hills this school year, failed to get off the ground last month.
The school, open to grades 9 through 12, attracted 50 students this fall, less than a third of the school-mandated enrollment threshold cited in Leadership Academy’s inaugural charter.
Richardson, former principal at Utah’s Uintah River High School, said it’s possible northwest Las Vegas’ only virtual charter scared away some parents, who were unsure of how their kids might perform under the school’s rigorous all-online curriculum.
He expects some others never had heard of the school in the first place.
“I think people are still kind of wary of both virtual schools and just charter schools in general,” Richardson said. “I think we’ve got a great model, a great curriculum, but you’ve got to get it off the ground first.
“Our (curriculum providers) expected the school would fill up by word of mouth, but first, you have to get the doors open.”
It’s a good bet that some of those Richardson hoped to attract to the academy are already spoken for.
Some 3,400 students sit on a waiting list for one of four charter school campuses operated by Somerset Academy, including middle and high school students in line to attend the Somerset’s Sky Pointe campus, which opened down the street from the academy late last month.
Richardson said Somerset, one of the higher-performing charters in the Las Vegas Valley, benefits not just from a good reputation but a steady stream of corporate funding from Academica, the nationwide education management organization that backs construction of Somerset campuses, helps hire new teachers and helps develop the school’s curriculum.
The school also is known, Richardson said, as a popular destination for Mormon students.
Richardson, himself a member of the LDS church, doesn’t expect Somerset will be willing to part with a copy of its lengthy waiting list — and doesn’t plan to start promoting his alternative charter school after church on Sunday — but said he wouldn’t shy away from seeking marketing advice from his crosstown enrollment rivals while the academy looks to get back on its feet.
Meanwhile, he and other school officials are circling the wagons. Members of the charter school’s seven-member independent board have made inroads in applying for some $75,000 in state funding to help extend the lease at 7495 W. Azure Drive.
They also plan to round up private foundation dollars to expand marketing efforts in front of a second planned opening next August.
“We don’t have any doubts about opening next year,” said board chair Valerie Blake. “Obviously, not opening this fall is incredibly disappointing, but it’s a blessing in disguise: It just gives us that much more time to fine-tune and be more effective.
“All charter schools are different, and our model doesn’t fit every student, but I think there is a niche for us. ”
Representatives from Somerset Academy did not return requests for comment.
For more information, call the school at 702-350-1472 or visit www.lanv.org.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839.