Two new charter schools could still open in western Wake in 2016, including the proposed Pine Springs Preparatory Academy in Holly Springs.
On Friday, the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board unanimously recommended that Pine Springs get approval from the State Board of Education to open for the 2016-17 school year. The State Board of Education already has given initial authorization for Peak Charter Academy, which has plans to open in 2016 in Cary or Apex.
Pine Springs had been referred to the advisory panel for further review because of its ties to a management company that has schools under investigation in Florida for allegations of grade tampering. The board of directors of Pine Springs ended the school’s relationship with Newpoint Education Partners, saying in its revised application that it would operate without using a management company.
Advisory panel members said they were impressed by the ability of Pine Springs’ board to run the school.
“We also felt confident that they had the capacity to open the school successfully based on a variety of questions and a review of their application,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the state advisory board.
Supporters of Pine Springs noted how its board and advisers include people with experience working with charter schools. Bruce Friend, an adviser to the school and president of Ignite Learning Partners, said everyone involved with Pine Springs has a vested interest in wanting to help Holly Springs.
“I live in Holly Springs,” Friend said. “I want to be a part of helping students in the community.”
Charter schools receive taxpayer money but are exempt from some regulations that traditional public schools must follow. There were 146 open in North Carolina this past school year, with 14 more slated to open this summer. Another 13 schools are slated to open in 2016.
The organizers of Pine Springs say they differ from the Wake County school system in that the charter school will provide a stronger emphasis on learning through hands-on projects and other activities. If approved, Pine Springs would open as an elementary school before eventually including middle-school grades.
The State Board of Education will discuss Pine Springs in August and could vote at that meeting to give the academy preliminary approval to open for the 2016-17 school year.
Gregg Sinders, a member of Pine Springs’ board and a senior policy analyst for state Rep. Paul Stam of Apex, said the school has identified two potential sites in Holly Springs. He said the school will close the deal once the State Board gives the charter preliminary approval.
“We’re just waiting for the go-ahead,” he said.