Bloomfield Preparatory Academy organizers hope to open their new charter school in fall 2019.
Members of the school’s founding board recently sent a letter of intent to the Bibb County Board of Education, and they will submit their second charter petition in early 2018, Bloomfield board chairwoman Debra Thomas said. The district’s deadline to receive petitions is March 2.
The Bibb school board unanimously denied Bloomfield’s first petition in January 2016. Members cited a lack of details on fiscal and operational practices and the need for more clarification in some areas of the application.
They said the school’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math was not unique to the district. In addition, the intended site for the new school — Barden Elementary, which closed in summer 2016 — wasn’t available yet.
To protect Bloomfield’s interests, the board isn’t disclosing the new focus just yet, said Jason McClendon, school founder and pastor of Community Church of God. The school’s mission is to prepare students for a lifetime of learning and instill in them an understanding that education is the key to success, Thomas said. It will prepare them for their futures, whether that’s college or learning a trade, McClendon said.
“Not only will it be innovative, but it will have specific features that the other schools do not have. It will also be an educational choice that parents in Bloomfield will be able to make,” McClendon said. “We were trying to fit the need in the area to provide a difference choice in the area for young families.”
Bloomfield board members have started looking at potential locations in the Bloomfield community, but Thomas didn’t want to reveal specifics until a final decision is made.
The school’s organizers have taken all recommendations into account that Superintendent Curtis Jones and the Bibb County Board of Education provided in the first petition, Thomas said. A solid working relationship with the Bibb County school system is very important to Bloomfield’s board members, and they look forward to working with the district.
“We are going to exercise every option that will give us the opportunity to serve and empower the young families in Bloomfield,” McClendon said. “It is our desire to work with Dr. Jones because we believe that when you’re working locally that’s a great opportunity to affirm what the city is trying to do with the community. We can do a lot together.”
The charter application covers academics, governance and organizational capacity. It lays out what the potential school plans to do to ensure academic achievement is as high or higher than other schools in the district, said Keith Simmons, chief of staff for the Bibb school district.
The Bibb district will meet with Bloomfield’s board to discuss expectations and answer questions and do an interim review of the petition to let them know if revisions or clarity may be needed, Simmons said. The district’s review team will send its recommendation to the Board of Education in May or June, so Bloomfield will have a full academic year for planning if approved.
Bloomfield board members will be reaching out to community members to let them know about the plans and hear their feedback and concerns, Thomas said.
McClendon anticipates starting out with about 500 students, most from the Bloomfield area. The school initially will be for kindergarten through third grades and gradually extend beyond fifth grade, with a new grade added each year, Thomas said.
“One of the things we would like to be able to provide is a continuous education experience with a child,” she said. “The folks in the school know the student, they have a history with the student, the student has a history with the school, and that continues with their later years of education. I think that adds a certain level of accountability for the student as well as the educator.”
Bloomfield Preparatory Academy will be located “on a side of town where a charter school is desperately needed,” McClendon said. This community has experienced the “flight of resources” as businesses have moved out.
Residents want to see their neighborhood succeed, and a charter school has the potential to generate community involvement, create partnerships and attract business people back to the area, he said. It also gives the community ownership of something created just for them, Thomas said.
“We want to help carve a bright future for the kids in Bloomfield,” Thomas said. “When we do that, we’re taking part in building the future of Macon.”