Next Gem Prep Charter School in the Works for Meridian

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by Holly Beech, Meridian Press

A public charter school that blends online learning into the classroom is seeking approval to open in Meridian next year.

Gem Prep: Meridian would be the fourth in a network of schools run by Gem Innovation Schools, Idaho’s first charter management organization. The organization also operates Gem Prep: Nampa, which opened last fall, Gem Prep: Pocatello and the online Idaho Distance Learning Academy.

The group is seeking a state charter for the new school, but the petition had to go through the local school district first. Gem Innovation Schools Director Jason Bransford presented to the West Ada school board Tuesday, which then referred the petition to the Idaho Public Charter School Commission. The state also authorizes Gem Prep: Pocatello, and Gem Prep: Nampa is chartered under the Nampa School District. Going through the state for the Meridian school makes more sense, Bransford said, because it would streamline authorizers rather than add a new one to the mix.

“Whatever happens, we want to be good partners, good neighbors,” Bransford said.

Gem Prep: Meridian would open in August 2018 for grades K-6 and expand over the years up to 12th grade. The school would start out with 372 students and grow to 582 students at full buildout.

A possible location for the school is on East Gala Court near the corner of Eagle and Overland roads, he said.

The Gem Prep model is to mix online learning into traditional classroom learning so students can learn at their own pace and continually challenge themselves, Bransford said.

“The student takes a series of assessments that tells the program what they have learned and what they have not learned yet, and it personalizes their instruction to them,” he said.

Gem Prep students spend an estimated one-third to one-fourth of the school day on average learning online, Bransford said, with computer sessions dispersed throughout the day.

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