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Knox Co. Schools votes to approve Knoxville Preparatory School charter school application

Originally, a vote to approve the application failed. However, resolutions to explain why it did not pass also failed, leading to a special meeting on Thursday.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — On Thursday, Knox County Schools voted to approve an application from Knoxville Preparatory School to open a boys-only charter school in the district. It was the second time that KCS leaders considered the application.

Originally, they met on April 6 to vote on it. During that meeting, the application did not pass in a 4-4 vote. The board was missing one person during that meeting, and some members spoke about several concerns they had about the application, such as a "lack of a SPED plan," concerns about the data in it, and a lack of a commitment to accept transgender students.

State law requires that when a charter school application fails, the board of education also gives reasons why it failed. Resolutions to explain why the application was not approved also failed, leading to confusion.

The Knox County law director's office asked KCS leaders to reconvene. During Thursday's special meeting, they formally voted again. They drafted two resolutions the board of education would need to vote on — one approving the application and another denying it, with reasons listed.

The resolution approving the school's application passed in a 5-4 vote. Board members Susan Horn, Kristi Kristy, Betsy Henderson, Steve Triplett and Mike McMillan voted to approve it.

Knoxville Preparatory School is now expected to soon welcome 105 sixth-grade boys.

Critics also said that charter schools are able to accept public funds without answering to publically elected boards like traditional schools do. They also said there were concerns that by only accepting boys, the school may violate federal Title IX guidelines. However, supporters said they believe schools like Knoxville Preparatory School could improve children's education.

"Even if you do favor charter schools and see charter schools as a solution, don't you feel that the students of Knox County deserve better than what Knoxville Prep brought them?" said Sam Brown, the Knoxville NAACP President.

He said that they planned to continue fighting the school. The Knox County Deputy Law Director said the school didn't face Title IX problems in Chattanooga because it also opened an all-girls school. He said that he didn't know if there would be lawsuits against the school in Knoxville, but said that the school would need to defend itself — not KCS.

He also said that if a judge rules that it violates Title IX, then Knoxville Preparatory School would not be able to accept students.

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