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I3 Academy plans to open next year in Birmingham.

State commission overrules Birmingham, Ala., board, approves charter school

The Alabama Public Charter School Commission grants a charter to I3 Academy, which plans to open in Birmingham in 2020.

The Alabama Public Charter School Commission has overruled the Birmingham school board and approved the creation of a charter school in the city.

Al.com reports that I3 Academy plans to open in fall 2020 with 420 students in grades K-5. It will be housed in the former Woodlawn Baptist Church building. 

Tommy Bice, who was state superintendent when lawmakers enacted a law authorizing charter schools in 2015, is the board chair of the new academy. “We’re elated,” Bice says. “I think [the Commission] heard how committed we are to this, and how sound our plan is, and we’re ready to get to work to serve children.”

In January, Birmingham’s school board rejected the group’s application because, it said, the application did not fully meet prescribed standards. But a review of I3 Academy’s application for the Charter School Commission, found the application met standards.

The state Commission voted 7 to 1 to approve the application. 

I3 Academy is set to become Birmingham's second public charter school.

In 2017, the city school board also denied the application of STAR Academy, now named Legacy Prep. The state charter school commission also approved that application in an appeal. Legacy Prep plans to open in August with 120 students in grades K-2.

Birmingham's school board has denied all three charter school applications it has received since becoming an authorizer in 2016.

Bice says the I3 Academy organizers chose the Woodlawn area for the school because it is one of the largest areas of need.

Ronald Jackson, who leads a group called Citizens for Better Schools and Sustainable Communities, called the Commission's action a “sham,” saying, “[I3 Academy] got the vote because it was rigged from the beginning.”

Jackson asserts that Alabama's schools will become re-segregated through the addition of charter schools.

I3 Academy is the seventh public charter school the Commission has approved since the legislature authorized creation of charter schools in 2015. 

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