Empire charter school gets state's approval

A new charter school serving middle and high schoolers got the green light from the state Board of Education on Wednesday.

Aspire College Preparatory Academy will open to sixth- through ninth- graders Aug. 8, said Principal Kara Backman. To date, 225 students have signed up and all employees have been hired.

Most students and staff are coming from other Aspire charter schools -- University Charter in Modesto and Summit Charter Academy in Ceres -- that do not have middle school or high school grades.

Aspire is renting part of recently closed Teel Middle School in Empire. Officials plan to add a grade each year until it serves sixth- through 12th-graders.

After Aspire's charter application was rejected by Modesto City Schools in November and the Stanislaus County Office of Education in March, Aspire officials appealed to the state Board of Education.

Charter schools are public schools that receive taxpayer funding, teach according to the same academic standards and give the same standardized tests, but have more flexibility in instruction and typically rely more heavily on parent involvement.

Stanislaus County has more than 15 charter schools.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at or 578-2339.