Heather Black

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Video: A Charter School May Be Coming To Columbus

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Twenty-six groups statewide so far want to be among the first in the state to open charter schools under a year-old state law. One of them is a Columbus group that hopes a combination of veterans educators and faith-based groups mixed with a new take on an old idea will earn them a state license.

Every child is different. It’s figuring out those differences and linking them to the best learning methods is the key to success. At least that’s what the organizers behind the proposed Inspire Charter School in Columbus.

“Our goals is to make sure that these young people are successful. That’s why we call the school…I like to call it the working on their inspiration so that we can get them through not only high school but also into college,” says Kenneth McFarland.

Charter schools are public institutions that are free from many regulations that govern traditional public schools. That flexibility includes class schedules, teacher qualifications and curriculums. The schools do have to roughly reflect the enrollments of area public schools. State and federal funding per pupil covers most of the costs while investors and grants also chip in.

“We can try some things that maybe the rigor or the bureaucracy inside the regular tradition public school they’re not allowed to really look at the kids and figure out what do we need to do to educate this group of kids,” says Pastor Darren Leach.

If approved, Inspire would be in the old Hughes School in North Columbus where Leach and others operate Genesis Church.

The school would start with 144 kids in grades K through 3 and expand over five years to 324 through sixth grade. A boys ninth grade academy would start with 80 students and expand to grades 9 through 12. Organizers think the old idea of a boys academy is a special need.

“Mississippi, especially in Columbus about 50 percent of our African American boys are not making it through the entire process so we thought if we’re going to attack something we really need to go after something that is going to make a real big difference and we know going after our boys will do that,” says Pastor Leach.

The group has been meeting weekly with prospective parents and others to take input they hope will shape the school if it gets off the ground.

“We ask their input. We say, what do you feel about culture? what should the school look like? What kind of qualities do you want in a school leader? What kind of teachers do you want?” says Pastor Leach.

Permit applications are due by March 14th and the state board charged with awarding the first five charter school permits will make a decision by June. If granted, the Inspire School will have to decide whether they can be up and running this fall or spend a year planning.

If granted, the Inspired Charter school will receive funding from state and federal along with grants.