Officials allow girls school to add students

NORCROSS - Georgia's first all-girls charter school can admit about 40 additional students into its inaugural sixth-grade class, officials said.

The state Board of Education approved an amendment to Ivy Preparatory Academy's charter to allow an increase in the school's maximum student enrollment, said Dana Tofig, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.

The state chartered special school was initially approved to open this August with 120 sixth-grade girls. The amendment allows Ivy Prep to increase its enrollment this year to 160 students, Tofig said.

Nina Gilbert, Ivy Prep's lead founder, said the approval actually allowed for an inaugural class of 175 students, but the school requested enrollment be capped this year at 160 sixth-graders.

"We feel like this will allow us to maintain a fairly small class size," Gilbert said.

Gilbert said the school decided to request the amendment after finding a facility that could support a larger student body. The school will be located at 3705 Engineering Drive in Norcross.

"We realized this was a facility that will allow us to expand our enrollment slightly - and do that without significantly affecting class size," Gilbert said.

The amendment will allow Ivy Prep to admit students on the waiting list, which was created when the school held its lottery in March.

"We will still have a waiting list, but the waiting list will be significantly smaller," Gilbert said. "We're getting applications by the hour. The interest remains. ... People are calling daily to see if the list is moving at all."

Although several people have asked if they can place their young daughters on the waiting list in advance, the school is only accepting applications for girls going into the sixth grade, Gilbert said. The application process will start over each year.

The school plans to offer grades six through 12, with a grade being added each year as students are promoted. In all, 161 additional girls can be admitted to Ivy Prep in the next four years. The school's maximum enrollment for the 2011-12 school year has been increased from 432 to 593 students, Tofig said.

Because the school's charter was approved by the state school board after it was denied by the Gwinnett County Board of Education, Ivy Prep will only receive state tax dollars. Any girl living in Georgia may apply to the school, but transportation will not be provided.

Tofig said board members had no concerns about amending the school's charter. In fact, the approval was fast-tracked, he said. Originally, the item was on the agenda for information this month, with the vote scheduled for next month.

"We're eager to welcome the first class of Ivy Prep scholars," Gilbert said. "We're thrilled there's such a community interest."

For more information about the school, call 770-448-6273 or visit www.ivyprepacademy.org.