Sometime this year Vanguard Academy, a fine arts charter school, is planning to open two new campuses, one each in Mission and Weslaco. That is if the school receives approval from the Texas Education Agency.
The school’s intentions became apparent from documents contained in the agenda packet for the Mission Consolidated Independent School District’s Finance Committee, which held its monthly meeting Wednesday night.
State law requires charter schools requesting to expand to seek impact statements from schools within a 30 mile radius of the proposed expansion, said Ana M. Mendoza, deputy superintendent and chief operating officer for the charter school that already has four campuses, one each in Alamo and Edinburg and two in Pharr.
MCISD officials were notified in a letter from Vanguard Academy Superintendent Robert L. Oliveraz the school was requesting TEA approval to open the two new schools. The TEA requires neighboring school districts to be notified in instances where expansion “may adversely impact a district financially or if the proposed change may impact the student enrollment of a district in a manner that impairs the district’s ability to comply with a court order.”
According to the statement of impact amendment accompanying Oliveraz’s letter Vanguard Academy is requesting TEA’s permission to double its current maximum approved enrollment from 4,000 to 8,000 students
“The reason we’re asking for the increase is because we’re expanding,” Mendoza said in a telephone interview Tuesday. She said the academy’s four schools already have 3,800 students meaning it is reaching its maximum student enrollment 16 years after receiving its initial state charter.
Mendoza said charter schools must also cite a compelling reason for seeking to expand. Though Vanguard officials have been preparing for the past six to nine months to apply for the expansion Mendoza said the TEA does not begin accepting applications until Feb. 1 of each year.
Mendoza would not say where the Mission campus would be located or how much has been budgeted but said the new campuses would accommodate between 400 and 500 students.
In Texas charter schools cannot assess property taxes with funding coming from the state. Though some schools may open multiple campuses and have boards of directors many operate without a formal school district title, said TEA spokeswoman, Lauren Callahan.
Mendoza said Vanguard is an open-enrollment charter school meaning except for certain pre-kindergarten classes it may not charge tuition and can only charge the same fees that a traditional public school may charge.
MCISD Assistant Superintendent for Finance told the district’s finance committee the district would oppose the academy’s expansion. Following the meeting she said the district could lose approximately $5,000 in state funding per each student it might lose to the academy.
“That equals about a half-million dollars for every 100 students we lose,” she said.
Despite MCISD’s opposition to the academy’s expansion district spokesman Craig Verley in his nearly 19 years with MCISD he has never known said the TEA to deny a charter school’s request for expansion.