MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - This week, Montgomery Public Schools announced E.D. Nixon Elementary School will be the first of four MPS schools to be converted to public charter schools as early as this fall. The plan, created by the Montgomery Education Foundation, was approved in late December 2018. MEF’s plan targets Sidney Lanier High School and its feeder schools: E.D. Nixon, Davis Elementary and Bellingrath Middle School.
The contract for the specific details of the charter school plan are still in the works between MEF, the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Alabama Department of Education. They have until mid-February to complete a contract because the state’s charter school law allows for 60 days from the approval date to sign a contract.
In anticipation of the completion of that contract, a community meeting for impacted families has been scheduled for the last week in February.
“Our first wave of meetings will be about the facts,” Hampton said. “We want to try to get the facts out there the best we can. A lot of people are reacting and operating with information that’s inaccurate."
Hampton said the meetings held after the initial information is given will be about getting community input to create collaborative plans for the schools.
“We are going to ask the community specific questions,” Hampton said. “We’re going to ask them what they want their schools to look like.”
According to Hampton, the Lanier feeder schools were selected for the plan because the student populations are consistent, with a majority of students starting at E.D. Nixon and Davis Elementary going on the Bellingrath and eventually Lanier. He said the MEF team also assessed the need based on student achievement. All four schools in the plan have fallen in the bottom six percent in state for standardized test scores for at least the last two school years. Hampton said the goal was to select a group of schools where the most academic impact could be made for a consistent group of students. Starting with the elementary schools, he said, allows for the plan to carry on through the years.
“We really wanted the ability to create documented evidence of the success of the program,” Hampton said. “This way also allows us to track the progression.”
MEF hopes to stick to its original proposal, which laid out a plan to convert the first school in fall 2019. When the plan was approved in December, MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore and State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey both expressed concerns about being able to complete all of the necessary work to create policies, procedures and plans to roll out the plan this fall. Both Moore and Mackey discussed the possibility of pushing the start date back to fall 2020, if MEF saw a need for it.
“We understand it’s a tight timeline,” Hampton said. “However, we don’t believe the timeline of this will exclude the plan from being successful.”
Hampton said, as of now, the plan is for E.D. Nixon to be converted this fall. Davis Elementary would be converted in fall 2020, and Bellingrath would either convert with Davis or the following year. Hampton said MEF is working to get the flexibility to choose the timing based on the group’s capacity at that time. Lanier will be converted the following year.
The first community meeting will be held Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. It will be at Bellingrath Middle School.
The Lanier Conversion Charter school plan falls in the state’s public conversion charter school category.