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Lake Oconee Academy keeps on growing

October 08, 2021 - 00:00
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    Greene County Board of Education Chairman Mike Lynch attends LOA Board of Governors meetings as an observer. The LOA Board is semiautonomous under Georgia Charter School regulations but all major funding for LOA passes through the BOE. MARK ENGEL/Staff
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    The LOA Board of Governors met Monday with five of the seven board members in attendance. CEO Otho Tucker (third from right) is not a member of the Board. MARK ENGEL/Staff

When the Lake Oconee Academy Board of Governors met Monday night, nothing was said about its lawsuit against the Board of Education until the very end, following a long, closed-door executive session.

Board attorney Dick Schmidt briefly explained that the court had ruled against LOA in its attempt to get a quick verdict in its one-year-old legal action over enrollment and funding at the charter school. He also indicated that both LOA and the BOE have decided to hire a mediator and give themselves until the end of October to reach a settlement.

“It’s taken way too much of all our time and energy,” Schmidt said.

“We’re optimistic,” LOA Board Vice-Chairman Michael Tompkins added. “Let’s get back to teaching.”

LOA claims that under the current Charter, the BOE should be funding all 1,051 students now enrolled at LOA, but only 1,013 are being funded this year. The lawsuit was filed last year after the BOE only agreed to fund 1,006 of the 1,023 LOA students. Board of Education Chair Mike Lynch has said the state’s formula for per-pupil funding changed since the charter was signed, and the school would be getting more money than it needs.

Also at Monday night’s LOA Board meeting:

CEO Otho Tucker announced that LOA has worked with the School District on a new schedule for the 2022-23 school year that, except for one day, will match holidays and days off with the other schools in Greene County.

The new soccer/football field has been completed and players are already using it. The adjacent fieldhouse is very close to being finished, and Tucker expects that both will be done in time for the homecoming football game on Oct. 23.

The board selected Landmark Construction company as the construction manager for the new Arts Center to be built on campus. The center will be the home for performing arts, band and communications classes and other art programs.

The lottery waiting list for slots to open up at LOA this school year now stands at 401. Six of those have priority status as applicants with siblings already in LOA or children of LOA teachers, staff or Board of Governors members. Tucker expressed doubt that openings will be available for any priority students, who are all seeking spots in fifth or sixth grades.