State board approves charter school growth

Staff WriterFebruary 4, 2011 

Thirteen charter schools in North Carolina received the go-ahead to expand from the State Board of Education on Thursday.

The board voted to allow the schools to add students or grade levels. Charter schools, which receive public money but operate outside state rules and regulations, must get approval from the State Board of Education to grow more than 10 percent.

Several Triangle charters were approved for growth by the board, including Casa Esperanza Montessori and Exploris Middle School in Wake; Maureen Joy Charter and Voyager Academy in Durham; and Neuse Charter in Johnston.

The board did not approve growth at two charters in Durham - Carter Community School and Kestrel Heights School. The state's Office of Charter Schools recommended against expansion in those cases, citing a decline in four categories at Carter and a previous admissions policy at Kestrel Heights that wrongly admitted students selectively instead of by lottery.

The vote came amid talk of more charter schools in North Carolina. The new Republican majority in the state legislature has vowed to lift the state's 100-school cap on charters. Lawmakers have also talked about allowing state lottery money to be used to construct new charter school buildings. This week, state senators debated a proposal that would remove oversight of charters from the State Board of Education and give it to a newly created charter school commission.

Ann McColl, the state board's legislative director, said Thursday that the board should remain the governing body over all state schools, including charters. She said a charter advisory commission could be established, but that ultimate authority should rest with the state board.

Most of the 13 charters got approval to add students to their current grades, but several are offering new grade levels.

Exploris in Wake will add fifth grade. Voyager Academy in Durham, which had approval for middle school and high school grades, will add kindergarten through third grade.

Carl Forsyth, managing director at Voyager, said the school would add third grade in the fall and add kindergarten through third grade later.

Forsyth said the school will build a high school and an elementary building close to the current middle school building. At full enrollment, Voyager will have about 1,300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, making it one of the largest charters in the state.

jane.stancill@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4559

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