Buckhead may be getting its first charter school if a group of passionate and tenacious parents and community members have their way.
The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education will decide the fate of Atlanta Classical Academy charter school at its April meeting. At least five of the nine BOE members must approve the charter school in order for it to move forward.
Overnight, the name for the charter school was changed from Northside Classical Academy to Atlanta Classical Academy. The school's launch team chairman, Matthew Kirby, wrote on the school's site about the name change, "'Atlanta Classical' is more aligned with our objective to serve Atlanta families with a high quality K-12 academy in a smaller-school environment."
Kirby told Buckhead Patch ACA is needed because “we’re in a cluster that has significant capacity levels. We have a lot of schools that are very large and very full.”
"When you create choices for families, it actually makes everybody better...We're designing a school that meets the needs of kids looking for something different," Kirby said.
With an anticipated opening date of fall 2014, the school would initially serve grades Kindergarten through 10th, quickly adding the last two grades soon after.
In the beginning, each class would have about 50 students.
Any student who is zoned to attend an APS district school would be eligible for ACA, which would be a non-selective school. If classes are over-enrolled, a random lottery would determine enrollment. According to the ACA website, “there will be provisions for the children of founding board members, employees of the school, and siblings.”
The school’s founding board members, along with others, have been working to make Atlanta Classical Charter Academy a reality since the summer of 2011. They used Ridgeview Classical School in Colorado as a model for the proposed charter school.
The academic model is a “very traditional, liberal arts approach” and is “one that resonates with lots of parents,” Kirby explained.
Like all members of the school’s founding group, Kirby supports and has been involved in local public schools. He served as a community football coach at North Atlanta High.
Other founding members include a former APS BOE member, a former Sara Smith Elementary teacher and Westminster Schools principal and another who started a school in Memphis, TN.
Kirby, a lifelong Buckhead resident, said the group is “very, very excited… We’re for Atlanta, and we’re for all things good for Atlanta.”
The group has not yet found a location for the school but has a real estate team scouting sites.
The permanent location would be centrally located in the Buckhead area, fitting into the North Atlanta High feeder system.
If the school is not approved by the APS BOE, Kirby said it would try to get approval from the state.
"We want to be an APS school absolutely. That is goal no. 1," Kirby said, adding that becoming a state-approved charter school would be "a backup. It's not what we want."
Charter schools receive less public dollars per student, and Kirby said ACA will show that a successful school can be run with less funding as long as it has experienced leadership and "great planning."
"To support a charter school is to support a high degree of fiscal responsibility," he said, adding that ACA will be run entirely on the public funds its given as a public school. Funds to cover infrastructure expenditures will be raised privately.
"For fewer dollars, we are held to higher standards," Kirby said. "We want to demonstrate that you can create an excellent school on that kind of budget."
Learn more about ACA during one of its upcoming 30-minute presentation meetings, which are open to the public. The next presentation on March 11 is full, but stop in for the March 21 meeting at the Cathedral of St. Phillip at 6:30 p.m.
Until then, get even more details and answers about ACA at its website at northsideclassical.org. You can also sign the petition to support the school there.