Nevada Virtual Academy to end elementary program

Updated September 28, 2018 - 6:57 pm

The online Nevada Virtual Academy charter school will close its elementary program at the end of this school year following its failure to meet academic goals spelled out in an performance-improvement agreement with the State Public Charter School Authority.

The closure was reviewed Friday at the charter authority’s regular meeting.

The elementary program, which serves about 447 students, received a one-star rating in rankings released this month by the state Education Department.

The school’s elementary program was singled out as a particular cause for concern in February when the charter board issued a issued a “notice of intent to terminate” over poor academic performance.

The school reached an agreement with the oversight board in June, which stated that the elementary school must obtain an adjusted index score of 34 for the 2017-18 school ratings.

But the school only reached 21 index points in the recent rating.

“We are disheartened that we will not be in a position to serve students in grades K-5 next school year,” the school wrote to parents in a letter last week. “However, we will do our best to assist currently enrolled students in NVVA’s elementary school find alternative educational opportunities that meet their needs.”

The school is also flagged for underperformance in its middle school, which received two stars.

Meanwhile, the embattled online Nevada Connections Academy has received multiple notices of concern from the charter authority for its middle and high schools and a notice of ongoing breach for its elementary school, all of which received one-star ratings.

The notices are part of the authority’s three-step accountability process, which begins with a notice of concern, continues with a notice of breach and can escalate to a notice of intent to terminate a charter contract.

Nevada Connections Academy has faced a number of issues with the authority before, including a year-long battle over its high-school graduation rate that culminated in a freeze in enrollment and goal to reach a 49 percent graduation rate for the class of 2018.

But the one-star school failed to meet goals set forth in a separate elementary improvement plan for 2017-18. It also received notices of concern for its low-rated middle and high school.

These results could jeopardize the renewal of the school’s contract in the fall of 2019, board Chairman Jason Guinasso warned.

“Your school is not on a track where at least this voting member of the board is going to be sympathetic or in a position to approve any sort of application for renewal,” he said.

K-8 Principal Heather Engelhardt said the school will try to put its best foot forward.

“What we are doing at our school and what is happening is absolutely not for lack of effort,” she said. “I have been present watching the staff grow, the school grow.”

Other charters also are on notice.

Founders Academy in Las Vegas received a notice of breach for receiving a two-star rating for its elementary school for a second straight year, although officials noted that its index score is showing improvement.

Eight other charter schools will receive notices of concern for receiving a low rating of one to two stars, including the one-star Mater Academy of Nevada, Bonanza campus, in Las Vegas and the two-star elementary and middle schools at Legacy Traditional School in North Las Vegas.

Those schools with notices of concern largely outlined plans for future improvement at the meeting.

The authority also commended 14 charter campuses that were high-performing or returned to good academic standing.

That includes all four elementary and middle-school campuses of Pinecrest Academy — which reached five stars across the board — and Discovery Charter, which was tapped for state receivership and now has three to five stars across its campuses.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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