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Sat, Feb. 22

State Charter Board approves application for creation of NELA

Four years after the Prescott Unified School District opened the doors of Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, the district and the school are parting company.

On Jan. 25, the Arizona Charter School Board approved an application from Compass Point International (CPI) to create a new charter school - Northpoint Academy. CPI is a nonprofit corporation formed solely for the purpose of creating and operating Northpoint Academy.

The state charter board's decision allows Northpoint Academy to "engage in business," said NELA Principal Geneva Saint-Amour.

Saint-Amour plans to remain with the newly approved charter school, and she said the corporation board has asked her to remain in her current administrative position.

With a slogan of "The Future of Education NOW," Northpoint Academy will remain an expeditionary learning school where students wear uniforms and the campus is closed.

"Northpoint Academy will continue to be affiliated with Expeditionary Leaning Inc., and continue field work and international travel opportunities for students," Saint-Amour said.

Despite its separation from PUSD, the new charter school will keep NELA's excelling status and accreditation, since the school's programs earned both of the designations.

"This is a unique situation where a district school switches to a charter school," PUSD Superintendent Kevin Kapp said. "This is the best long-term solution for Northpoint."

Northpoint Academy will continue as a 9-12 high school, with officials capping grade enrollment for the 2010-11 school year at 75 freshmen, 50 sophomores, 35 juniors and 20 seniors. Saint-Amour said this would allow the school to limit its teaching staff the first year.

Because Northpoint Academy is a new school, officials must post all teaching positions. Saint-Amour said even current staff must apply for teaching positions at the school.

Saint-Amour anticipates that NELA teachers will apply for positions with Northpoint Academy.

However, if any teachers do not want to stay, "under the new state law, PUSD does not owe them a job," Kapp said. "But we would certainly work with them."

Current students must also re-apply to attend the new charter school.

Northpoint Academy officials have scheduled the school's first information session at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 at NELA, located at 551 First St.

"This is the first opportunity for students to enroll, and enrollment packets will be distributed," Saint-Amour said.

The first round of enrollment will continue through March 30.

Northpoint officials hope to keep the charter school where NELA is located. They are negotiating with PUSD officials for a fully furnished lease of the building. The lease would not include consumables or computers.

Leasing the building to Northpoint Academy benefits the new school and PUSD. The district can use lease money wherever it wants.

"PUSD can be flexible in using lease money, but it would not want to use it for any long-term expense," the superintendent said.

"PUSD will save about $750,000 when NELA leaves the district. It is similar to closing a school and eliminating all staffing positions from the PUSD budget. This will help the budget situation tremendously for 2010-11."

Reducing the staff members may help the budget, but NELA's departure may cause a decline in student enrollment, which could affect PUSD financially in 2011-12.

Approximately 125 students attend NELA, and the loss of that many students could cost PUSD $500,000.

As the new charter school's officials work to make the switch from district to charter school, Saint-Amour said, "The goal is that there not be a lot of change obvious to students. We do not want to interrupt the education process."

According to Saint-Amour, "Northpoint Academy is not designed to be an alternative school for students struggling elsewhere that would continue to struggle. We would love to be a school of choice for students that are struggling but have the potential to succeed."

Additional information is available at or by calling NELA at 717-3272.

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