Morrisville gets its first public high school as charter is approved

Kaleidoscope Charter High School

Watch a promotional video for Kaleidoscope Charter High School in Morrisville, NC.
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Watch a promotional video for Kaleidoscope Charter High School in Morrisville, NC.

Morrisville is getting its first public high school, but it won't be part of the Wake County school system.

The State Board of Education gave approval Thursday for eight new charter schools to open in 2019, including Kaleidoscope Charter High School, which plans to open in Morrisville. Kaleidoscope was the only new Triangle charter school approved Thursday.

The approval rewarded the persistence of Kaleidoscope's leaders, who've applied for five years in a row.

“It was really important for me to keep plowing on," Janet Littlejohn, chairwoman of Kaleidoscope's board of directors, said in an interview Thursday. "I couldn’t give up. We wanted to do it for the children.”

Charter schools are taxpayer-funded schools that are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow. They operate independently of the districts they’re located in.

The approval comes at a time when the lack of secondary schools in Morrisville has become a growing concern in the fast-growing western Wake County community. There are no middle schools or high schools in the Wake County school system in Morrisville and no new ones are planned in the near future — in part due to the difficulty finding available land.

Several parents and students took their case to the Morrisville Town Council in March to ask for more secondary schools in town. This group, accompanied by elected officials from the town, made the same pitch at Tuesday's school board meeting.

"Time is running out," Morrisville mayor pro-tem Vicki Scroggins-Johnson told the school board. "Suitable land sites for traditional schools in western Wake are less available each day.

"I believe a solution can be found through open dialogue and creativity. But it will require the support of the Wake County school board, Wake County commissioners, Morrisville Town Council and town residents."

Kaleidoscope's leaders pointed to the lack of high schools in Morrisville in their application.

"There’s enough children to serve," Littlejohn said. "There are so many children in Morrisville that will benefit from having Kaleidoscope and other schools as well. I don’t have a problem with the public school system."

It's uncertain how much Kaleidoscope will be able to meet the need for high school seats in town. The school is projected to have 500 students. Most high schools in the district have more than 2,000 students.

Kaleidoscope also likely won't be filled with only Morrisville students. Any family can apply, and the school expects to also draw students from Cary, Durham and Apex.

LIttlejohn said Kaleidoscope will differ from most Wake County high schools by having a later start time and what's called a “student centered” focus on learning.

The first class would start at 8:45 a.m., compared to 7:25 a.m. at most Wake high schools. The doors would open at Kaleidoscope at 8 a.m. for students to meet with teachers,

"I believe so strongly that Morrisville deserves to have its first student-centered high school," Littlejohn said.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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