A Temple-based charter school announced plans this week to open additional campuses in Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove.

Priority Charter Schools, which operates two campuses in Temple and Georgetown, is requesting approval from state Education Commissioner Michael Williams to open two prekindergarten through fifth-grade elementary campuses in Cove and Heights. In addition, Priority has already been approved to move one of its middle and high school campuses from Belton to Killeen, said Nick Farley, Priority Charter Schools superintendent.

“We have had requests from parents to look at coming out and having campuses in the area,” Farley said. “We are very excited.”

The Cove campuses will be housed in the facility currently occupied by Cove Christian Academy; the Killeen campus will be at 502 N. 38th St. Farley said the charter is in negotiations to finalize the location of the Heights campus location.

According to the state’s charter school law, schools that have already been granted a charter — a lengthy process that takes more than a year — can ask the commissioner to amend their charter to add campuses.

“Charters can have multiple campuses that operate under that charter once they go through the approval process,” said DeEtta Culbertson, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency.

Priority Charter Schools began operating in 1999 when it opened the Temple Education Center, a prekindergarten through 12th-grade school it continues to operate. Priority expanded and opened campuses in Georgetown and Belton for the 2012-13 school year.

Currently, the schools have a total enrollment of about 475 students, with about 100 students at the Temple campus each year for the past two years.

“A lot of parents are very interested,” Farley said. “I think they like the program we run and the way we educate our students.”

The center’s schools focus on individualized education. Students who enroll are first given diagnostics in math and reading, and an individualized education plan is created for them, according to the website.

“We try to tailor it so that a student who is excelling in an area can move on without being held back, and students struggling can get the individual attention they need to improve,” Farley said.

Priority also uses a “mastery-based” system, which means when students complete an educational unit, they are tested and must score at least 80 percent to move to the next unit.

In addition to emphasizing academic performance, Priority schools place a strong emphasis on character development, Farley said. If approved, the two new elementary school charter sites would require students to participate in at least one community service project each semester. Those schools will offer Spanish and technology curriculum to students as well.

Farley said he hopes to get approval from the commissioner in March or April, and said Priority plans to have all three campuses open by August.

Killeen is home to three charter schools. If approved, the campuses would be the only charter schools in Harker Heights and Copperas Cove.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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