New charter school remains on track despite obstacles

Quest Middle School of Pine Bluff remains on schedule to welcome several hundred fifth- through eighth-graders through its doors as an open enrollment charter school this August thanks to the quick resolution of a potential problem last week.

A spokesperson for Responsive Education Solutions, the school’s Lewisville, Texas-based parent organization, said that an application for 501 (c) (3) status filed with the Internal Revenue Service by Responsive Education Solutions of Arkansas on behalf of Quest was caught up in a backlog of similar applications.

“We were told that it could take up to 14 months to get it processed,” Arkansas Regional Director Virginia Perry said Monday. “We asked the Arkansas State Board of Education at a May 13 meeting for permission to use our Texas organization, which already has non-profit status, as the sponsoring organization for Quest. The board approved our request and the next day we had our LEA [local education agency] numbers for each school.”

In addition to Quest Middle School of Pine Bluff, Responsive Education Solutions is also opening Premier High School in Little Rock and the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy in Bentonville.

“We have hired several staff members from St. Joseph Catholic School, including principal Alexandra Pritchett and several teachers,” Perry said of the local institution that is closing at the end of the current school year due to loss of enrollment and declining funds. “We also hired a school nurse. We just need to find a part-time librarian and a special education teacher. They take a bit longer to fill because of the required certifications.”

Perry said the Rev. Henry ‘Hank’ Wilkins IV, who also serves as a state representative, is the school’s first board member.

“We will have a board of five,” Perry said.

Quest is actively signing up students, according to Perry.

“We had around 105 pre-enrolled applicants and we are in the process of converting those to enrolled applicants,” Perry said. “So far about 45 students have completed their enrollment packets.”

Perry said the school plans to add a ninth-grade class for the 2014-2015 school year and a 10th=grade the year after that until the school serves grades five through 12.