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After opening a charter middle and high school this year, Hamilton County might get an elementary version by next year.

The Hamilton County Board of Education meets today in a work session to discuss a 236-page application submitted for Adira Academy.

The school is modeled after Eagles Nest Charter School in Coral Springs, Fla. The parents of Adira Academy founder Marcia Griffin created Eagles Nest, so Mrs. Griffin heavily was involved in the process.

Eagles Nest now has an elementary and a middle school with kindergarten through eighth grade, according to the Web site for the Broward County school system in Florida.

When Mrs. Griffin decided to move to Chattanooga to be near other family members, she learned there was no elementary charter school in the area and decided to try to do something about it.

"By the time you get to grade six, you've missed the students who were really struggling," she said. "Because there are no (elementary charter) schools like that in Hamilton County, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce it."

Mrs. Griffin, whose two children are elementary school age, said Adira Academy would be arts and technology based. Classes would be small, with a certified teacher and a teacher's assistant in each one. She said she wants to focus on getting the latest technology in the school, including interactive whiteboards.

"We want to be ahead of the curve. We don't want to just be a mom-and-pop operation that's just taking their first stab at having a charter school," she said. "We have a successful model (in Florida), and we want to replicate it (in Chattanooga)."

Adira is Hebrew for "strong" and is her 9-year-old daughter's name, Mrs. Griffin said.

In Tennessee, only certain students are eligible to attend charter schools: those who have failed to earn a proficient score on at least one section of the state standardized test, those attending a school on the state's high-priority list, or poor students who receive free or reduced-price lunches in districts with at least 14,000 students.

Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, a middle-high school, and Ivy Academy, a high school, became Chattanooga's first two charter schools this year, but at least one already is struggling.

Multiple parents have requested that their children be transferred out of Ivy Academy, and the school's director of programs and operations no longer works there, saying he was laid off.

Hamilton County school board Chairman Kenny Smith said the school's struggles have made him a little more cautious in approving another charter school.

"I'm open to the idea of charter schools ... but with one struggling now and another proposal coming, I do need to look at it closer as a board member," he said. "Charter schools are new to our area, so we need to do our homework."

WHAT'S NEXT

The Hamilton County Board of Education tonight will discuss the application of Adira Academy. School district officials will make recommendations on whether to approve the school, and the board will vote on whether to approve the application at a future meeting.

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