How Pre-Registering Now Avoids Charter Capacity Shortages Later
West Virginia Academy recently opened pre-registration for the Fall 2022 academic year in conjunction with announcing its campus location. Families that are still in the midst of ramping up for the current school year may understandably wish to put off planning for next year for a while, but failing to act now could mean that the academy will have insufficient capacity to meet community demand when the formal enrollment process is conducted in the Spring.
"The site we selected for our school can be built out to accommodate as few as 250 students or as many as 1,600 students, but we are putting plans into action now in order to be ready for next fall so as time goes on we'll have less and less flexibility to expand," said Dr. John Treu, President of West Virginia Academy. "We are also required by regulation to set our maximum enrollment capacity no later than the beginning of January based on our facility and staffing plans. These rules combined with the timeline for planning our facility mean that we cannot expand our maximum capacity in the Spring when the formal application process is conducted. If there are 500 pre-registrants by the beginning of December, for example, then we may likely set our maximum capacity around 600 students in January, but if 800 students actually apply then we would have to waitlist 200 students. It's our goal for every student that wants to attend our school to be able to attend and so we are trying to get the word out for all interested families to pre-register now so that no student is turned away in the Spring."
The capacity limitation in the charter regulations exists because the West Virginia Department of Education designed the rules to give the maximum possible notice to current public schools of declining enrollments by forcing charter schools to set maximums earlier on in the process than is typically done. These requirements were not designed to promote or accommodate school choice and the WVDE as well as the WV Board of Education have openly expressed opposition, and even disdain, for charter schools. An unfortunate byproduct of the way the regulations were written is that families that understandably take more time to decide whether they want to attend a charter school could create a bottleneck that precludes many students from attending altogether when space runs out. Also, because the funding mechanisms for public education in West Virginia are based on prior year enrollments, new charter schools will be limited in the extent to which they can expand in subsequent years.
"Given the rules that limit charter school expansion, we cannot stress enough that all interested families should take a few minutes to pre-register as soon as possible so that we avoid a shortage and will have sufficient classroom space at our school," said Dr. Treu. "As a parent of school-aged children, I know that next Fall seems really far off with everything going on, but pre-registering early in the process is important because we're setting a lot of plans for logistics in place in the coming days that cannot be altered later. The best way to make sure that there is space for your child to attend when official enrollments are set in the Spring is to pre-register right now."
Pre-registration is open from now through December.