Charter school future for A3 Academy?

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- "Type in Malcolm X," the teacher said to two students in the humanities class at Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield, Ore.

Results popped up -- and with them, a teachable moment to help carry students beyond the walls of this high school to college.

Just as the "A3" Academy transforms minds, the school's mission could soon transform as the school district looks to turn the program into a charter school.

Opened in 2006, A3 is home for 180 students. They built a new wing at the campus last year. Now they're ready for the next step.

"We need flexibility in the way we use our schedules, the way we bring in teachers and the students that we take from all over Lane County," said school director Mike Fisher.

Officials said switching to a charter school will do three things:

  • Make student transfers to A3 easier,
  • Make it possible to hire more professionals from the real world to teach classes
  • And did we mention money?

"I believe once we're at the end of it we're going to bring in about half a million dollars of federal grant money, which is a real bonus," said Simon Arnold, a senior at A3.

Initially, A3 has been awarded $55,000 in federal funds for planning the switch to a charter school. More money, once the charter is agreed upon, will come down the pipeline for implementation, including a grant of $505,000, according to Jeff DeFranco, facilities director for the Springfield School District.

"You know, from the student's standpoint, this gives the school more resources in the short term to work with and do their planning on," he said.

"Being able to have that kind of freedom within our own school would be very helpful for us," sophomore Mickey Plumner-Brous said. "We'd get a lot more opportunities to learn."

The answer may come soon. The Springfield School Board has a vote on the proposal set for Feb. 22.

If the board gives the green light this month, the change for the A-3 academy will take effect in the fall.

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