An Arizona-based charter school network called Great Hearts Academies announced plans Tuesday to open five to 10 Nashville charter schools over several years, with hopes of locating its first school near Vanderbilt University.
The charter group’s media advisory arrived Tuesday via the Metro Council’s office, which listed “contacts” of four West Nashville-area council members: Emily Evans, Carter Todd, Jason Holleman and Burkley Allen.
The City Paper was the first to report in November about a push for a West Nashville charter school with an untapped focus for publicly financed, privately run charters in Davidson County. Instead of catering to only at-risk, economically disadvantaged students, parents and educators are looking for a charter that would target middle- and upper-class children as well.
A forthcoming proposal for a Great Hearts Academies charter schools would seek to meet that demand.
“Here in Phoenix, we have schools that serve a very diverse demographic,” Peter Bezanson, chief academic officer of Great Hearts Academies, told The City Paper in a phone interview. “We have schools in basically every suburb of Phoenix as well as schools that serve a more traditionally underserved urban-student population.
“We would seek to do the same thing in Nashville,” he said.
The next round of charter applications is set to go before the Metro Nashville Board of Education for approval in April. Bezanson said his organization plans to apply formally at that time. His group hopes to open the new school in the 2013-14 school year.
Bezanson said his group plans on locating its first school “where the demand is, as is only reasonable for a business.” From there, he said the organization hopes to locate charters throughout Nashville.
Bezanson said parent organizations have contacted Great Hearts Academies to tell school leaders about a demand for a charter school “around the Vanderbilt area.”
“I think that would be a pretty good place to put a school,” he said, adding that his school has organized two open houses in areas where they envision a new charter school. Still, he said he’s open to putting the organization’s first school anywhere. “Wherever most people want us to be, that’s where we want to be.”
Great Hearts Academies’ first open house is at the Cohn Adult Learning Center at 4805 Park Ave., Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
The second community meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Martin Professional Development Center at 2400 Fairfax Ave.
According to a press release, Great Hearts Academies is noted for its classical, liberal arts educational approach. Bezanson said his school doesn’t target particular demographics but simply offers a specialized curriculum.
“We want to serve students who want a classical, liberal arts education,” Bezanson said.
“That’s really our niche.”
Prior to the 2011 state legislative session, eligible charter school students had to qualify for federal free and reduced lunches. Accordingly, all charters in Nashville have historically sought to offer choice to students who come from impoverished families.
In the spring, state lawmakers changed the Tennessee charter law to allow total open enrollment into charter schools.
A possible Great Hearts Academies charter school near Vanderbilt –– if it becomes a reality, which is no guarantee –– would be located in a largely affluent part of town.