The Tennessee Public Charter School Commission overruled Metro Nashville Public Schools on Tuesday, approving an application by Nashville Classical Charter School to open a second school in West Nashville.
The school, called Nashville Classical Charter II, was initially denied twice by the MNPS Board of Education, once in April and once in July, after the charter was forced to resubmit its application due to failing to meet every standard.
In July, after the MNPS charter review committee deemed that the school had met the standards and recommended it be approved, the board denied the school again. The state commission, which has final say on charter applications statewide, overturned the second rejection after Nashville Classical appealed.
“The review committee has recommended approval of the application for (Nashville Classical II), citing a compelling need in the proposed community and a successful academic program aligned to the mission and vision of the school,” Commission Director Tess Stovall wrote in a report of the charter review committee’s findings. “The committee highlighted that the Sponsor provided a clear and robust five-year network plan that supports opening the proposed school.”
According to the report, MNPS’ second denial, which hinged on the reasoning that the school was not likely to find enough students to support itself, was ill-conceived.
The review committee found, the report said, “detailed evidence that the school had a high likelihood of reaching its initial enrollment projection of 81 kindergarteners in Year 1.”
The report cited focus groups conducted by the school as well as studies of demographics using census, private school and MNPS enrollment and capacity data.
It also noted that the school had reached many area parents and had already received some intent-to-enroll surveys back from them.
“For this new school, their primary method of building interest in the community is through relationships with community organizations, and through these efforts, they have been able to reach at least fifty parents, some of which have already completed an intent to enroll survey,” the report said.
Abigail Tylor, the MNPS board member representing the district where the school will open, said that despite what Nashville Classical presented, the commission “ruled against both local control and community will.”
She said Nashville Classical leaders had also heard opposition the report doesn’t mention and that the commission did not acknowledge the closure of LEAD Academy Middle at the same location. It closed in 2015 and sent its students to other schools.
With the commission’s decision, the school is now slated to open for the 2022-23 school year. The school will take the place of the former Brookmeade Elementary School in West Nashville and will take on only a kindergarten class for its first year.
Nashville Classical Charter School did not respond to requests for comment. According to its website, the school will employ the same “classical” model as its school in East Nashville. In 2019, the school’s state testing success rate was 57.4%, which was 1.6 times higher than the average success rate across Tennessee.