Texas education officials approved an application Friday for a charter school championed by NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, paving the way for it to open next year with campuses in Fort Worth and Dallas.
Plans are to launch the Prime Prep Academy with about 650 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, eventually expanding to the 12th grade.
"Once a charter is approved, there is a brief moment of reflection and celebration and elation," said D.L. Wallace, executive director of Uplift Fort Worth, which is working with Sanders to open the school. "For us that validated that we did put together the type of plan that the majority of the state board could buy into."
The flamboyant Sanders, a former Dallas Cowboys player, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
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The State Board of Education voted 8-4 to approve the application during a meeting Friday in Austin. Before the vote, some board members questioned the academic rigor at the school and the use of the online curriculum CSCOPE.
"I have no idea what the applicant plans to do in the classroom," said Michael Soto, D-San Antonio.
In a phone interview after the meeting, Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, said she shared the concerns but felt comfortable enough with the academic plans to vote to approve the academy.
She noted that CSCOPE has improved in the last two years. It is fully aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills state curriculum standards and covers language arts, math, science and social studies, the core subjects that make up the Texas educational standards.
"I didn't want that to be a thing that could end it. ... There are lots of schools using CSCOPE," she said.
Texas has 195 charter schools in operation, and on Friday the board approved applications for eight open-enrollment charter schools for 2012-13. Three applications were denied.
Last month, officials interviewed representatives from 15 sponsoring agencies, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said.
A graduate of Florida State University, Sanders plans to be at the school daily. Sanders, a father of five, intends to send his three youngest children, ages 11, 9 and 7, to the school.
"He is going to be very, very hands-on. He's not only going to be the face of the school, he will be interacting with the students," said Ayana Young, spokeswoman for PrimeTime Association, a nonprofit founded by Sanders. "This is his dream. His dream is now coming to life."
Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326