The school's waiting list includes as many as 100 names.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The big question marks that hung over Legacy Academy are gone this year, and that makes Tiffany Brown happy.
"Last year, we didn't know if the school was going to close in the middle of the year or what," said Tiffany, 13, an eighth-grader from Youngstown.
"But now we know we're staying here. We're not going anywhere, and I feel a lot better."
Legacy Academy, a charter school on the city's South Side, started its second year of classes Tuesday confident that the bitter legal hurdles and emotional distractions it faced last year are in the past.
"We're able to direct our energy in what we do best, and that's education," said Bishop Norman Wagner, pastor of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church and the school's founder.
Here's what happened
A year ago, the Lucas County Educational Service Center in Toledo approved a charter school contract for Legacy to operate a school for children in kindergarten through 10th grade at the church on Oak Hill Avenue. Classes began in October 2001 for 225 children.
Two months later, the Youngstown Board of Education filed a lawsuit contending that Lucas County cannot sponsor a charter school outside Lucas County.
The state education department agreed and withheld funds from Legacy; school officials feared the school might have to close.
In March, the parties settled the legal dispute, restoring funding to the school and requiring that Legacy get another sponsor for the 2002-03 school year. In July, the State Board of Education signed on as the school's sponsor, granting a three-year contract.
Classes opened Tuesday with 176 pupils. Principal Verna Wylie said the school starts on a much more positive note this year.
"We didn't have the proper tools" last year, she said. "We didn't have textbooks. There were so many things that we did not have that got in the way of the educational programming that we desired."
The school also dropped classes for ninth- and 10th-graders this year.
"We didn't have the proper facilities," Wylie said. "You need labs and all kinds of things when you start looking at high-school programming, and we're real limited with space."
The academy conducts classes in the church as well as six portable classroom buildings behind the church building.
Bishop Wagner said there are up to 100 pupils on a waiting list to get into the school and that its vital to find more space, either in another building or by constructing a new school.
Facilities have long been a major challenge for charter schools in Ohio.
Charter schools are privately operated and publicly funded, do not charge tuition and receive about $5,000 per pupil annually in state and local funds. They do not, however, receive any public money for facilities. More than 100 such schools have opened in Ohio since 1998, including six in Youngstown.
Eagle Heights Academy, a charter school in the former South High School building on Market Street, eliminated ninth-grade classes this school year and delayed further expansion plans in part because of lack of space.
Youngstown Community School, another charter school on Essex Street on the South Side, recently opened a new school building. The school borrowed $4 million for the construction and has raised more than $2 million in private funds.