Gary Middle College, run by the same company as 21st Century Charter School, will open next year as the city’s eighth charter school. The Ball State University Office of Charter Schools authorized the school on Wednesday and granted a charter for five years. Public charter schools like Gary Middle College receive state funding but are afforded freedoms in curriculum and teaching styles.

The charter is designed as a night program and will serve students who find difficulty adhering to a traditional schedule. Students enrolling in Gary Middle College can earn up to 60 college credits through a partnership with the Gary campus of Ivy Tech Community College. The inaugural class is projected to have 100 students.

“The middle college fits a very targeted niche of students,” said Robert Marra, interim director for Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools, “and I think that’s really important. What I heard and what I find really interesting is from the people asking why they were only starting off with 100 kids.”

Classes will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 21st Century Charter School, along with Saturday courses. The leader of the charter’s operator, GEO Foundation founder and president Kevin Teasley, said the school isn’t a dropout program.

“It is a program that helps students with life circumstances that prevent them from going to traditional schools during the day,” he said.

The charter will receive $9,000 per student in state funding and will pay for college courses and textbooks.

“In this day in age, even as low as tuition is for Ivy Tech, for a full-time student per year it’s roughly $3,000,” Teasley said. “We will probably have near full-time students who will be able to save those dollars.”

The Gary School Corp. receives about $8,300 per pupil from the state.

Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation saw locating another school in Gary as a way to enrich its offerings.

Gary Community School Corp. spokeswoman Sarita Stevens said the district didn’t wish to comment about the charter school.

“Charter schools are public schools and parents do have the right to choose,” Stevens said. “It is our obligation to continue to work hard on keeping up our standards in our schools and offering the best services to our students.”