Midtown Raleigh News

Charter high school with arts focus opening in downtown Raleigh

More than 200 students have enrolled in a new arts-focused high school that will open its doors in downtown Raleigh this fall.

The Longleaf School of the Arts, a charter school, aims to focus on the fine arts in a way that welcomes both students who already are committed to the arts and those who have an interest in learning more.

“Students who want the challenge are going to get it, but we are not just a school for child prodigies,” said Emily Orr, the school’s founder.

Longleaf will require students to take eight art classes in order to graduate, along with other core academic courses that meet North Carolina curriculum standards.

In the first year, the art classes will be in dance, theater, visual art and music.

Denise Brown, the mother of an incoming sophomore, said the school caught her family’s attention because it appealed to her daughter’s interest in dance and visual art but also had a curriculum that would prepare her for college and a career.

“It was just the perfect opportunity,” she said.

The school does not require auditions or tests for admission but instead accepts all interested students. In its first year the school will have only ninth- and 10th-graders but will add one grade each school year. The school still has openings for the 2013-2014 school year.

Because Longleaf is a charter school, it must accept students from anywhere in the state, but the bulk of the students enrolled for the fall come from Wake County, Orr said.

Jennifer Broome, the incoming head of school, said students will have access to a breadth of arts classes that is difficult to find anywhere else.

“I’m really excited about having a school where the arts aren’t peripheral,” she said.

School history

Longleaf officials had considered a Garner location but settled on its downtown location across from Moore Square for its first year. School officials are considering their options for future years when the school grows beyond the capacity of its building on East Hargett Street.

Orr said the school has its roots in the Governor’s School, a residential summer program for academically talented students that has both academic and arts offerings.

She had taught at the program for many years and had long thought of opening a school with a similar emphasis, one where students were truly excited about learning.

“It’s every teacher’s dream,” she said of that level of student engagement.

When N.C. officials lifted the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state, Orr decided to go for it. The state gave final approval to Longleaf’s application in March.

Orr said she’s excited about the quality of the faculty Longleaf has attracted and the enthusiasm students and parents have shown for it.

“It’s going to be a great, great school,” she said.