Updated 

UPDATE Panel approves one charter school, rejects two


LITTLE ROCK — The state Department of Education’s newly formed Charter Authorizing Panel on Wednesday approved a proposed open-enrollment charter school in Little Rock and denied proposed schools in North Little Rock and Springdale.

In its first meeting since organizing in August, the panel approved a charter for Exalt Academy of Southwest Little Rock. The school will serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade and will have an enrollment cap of 540 students.

The board also voted to deny applications for the proposed Capitol City Lighthouse Charter School in North Little Rock and Ozark College and Career Academy in Springdale. Both votes were 5-1.

Capitol City Lighthouse Charter School would have been an open-enrollment charter school serving grades K-12, with an enrollment cap of 750 students. Lighthouse Academies currently operates charter schools in Jacksonville and Pine Bluff.

The Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts opposed the application for the North Little Rock school.

Ozark College and Career Academy in Springdale would have been an open-enrollment charter school serving grades K-12, with an enrollment cap of 250 students. The Springdale School District opposed the application.

Also Wednesday, the panel granted a request from KIPP Delta Public Schools to amend its charter so that its Blytheville school can go from serving grades 4-8 to serving grades 4-12 and increase its enrollment cap from 450 to 810.

The panel is scheduled to meet again Thursday to hold hearings on applications for charter schools in Little Rock, Redfield, Sunset and Osceola.

Act 509 of this year shifted the responsibility for authorizing charter schools from the state Board of Education to a panel within the Education Department comprised of state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, its chairman, and six department officials he appointed.

The panel’s decisions are subject to review by the state board.