The Office of Charter Schools at Ball State University has approved an eighth charter school in the city. The Gary Middle College, designed to serve the needs of nontraditional high school students, will open in fall 2011. It will be housed at 21st Century Charter School at Gary, 556 Washington St. The school will be in session from about 4 to 9 p.m. weekdays, serving students in grades nine to 12 who want to earn their high school diploma and take college classes.

Kevin Teasley, president of the Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation, said it is delighted to serve a growing number of students who need a nontraditional time to attend school.

“We believe there is a large population who has to make a choice between a high school diploma or bread on the table,” Teasley said. “That’s an unfortunate choice. We are hopeful this population will be able to have both, work during the day, get a high school diploma and go to college. The unique feature is not just the time, mainly in the evening, but the ability to take college classes at the same time.”

Organizers emphasize the Gary Middle College is not an alternative school or dropout program. It is a high school where students also will be able to attend college and earn up to 60 hours of college credit as part of their academic program.

Robert Marra, interim director of Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools, said the new school has a five-year contract.

“During the public hearing last month, there was strong support for the school,” Marra said.