North Raleigh News

Rolesville Charter Academy wins approval from advisory board

The town of Rolesville is one step closer to getting its first charter school.

The Charter School Advisory Board on Monday voted in favor of Rolesville Charter Academy and will recommend that the State Board of Education approve the school’s charter application.

The school hopes to open for the 2017-18 school year and would serve 576 students in kindergarten through sixth grade the first year. It plans to grow to 772 students through eighth grade by the third year.

Rolesville, which has a population of about 6,500, is the fastest-growing town in North Carolina. Mayor Frank Eagles said the town needs a charter school.

“While our area schools are strong, choices for our families remain limited,” he wrote in a letter supporting Rolesville Charter Academy. “Recent charter and private school openings in the surrounding area have met the demand somewhat, but there are still thousands of area families on waiting lists for their preferred schools.”

Rolesville Charter Academy has teamed up with National Heritage Academies, a management organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich. NHA partners with 81 charter schools in nine states, including eight in North Carolina. The group plans to open three more charter schools in North Carolina this fall.

The Rolesville school would replicate the model of other NHA-partnered schools, including the newly opened Wake Forest Charter Academy and also Greensboro Academy. Both schools have long waiting lists.

Leaders of the Rolesville school are not targeting a specific population of students, but they hope the school’s demographics would reflect the surrounding population and Wake County schools.

Critics of charter schools say they are not accessible to low-income students and are not diverse. Though charter schools receive public funding, they are exempt from some requirements traditional public schools must follow, including transportation and participation in subsidized meal programs.

On Monday, Charter School Advisory Board member Eric Sanchez said he was worried because Rolesville Charter Academy’s application did not prioritize attracting a diverse student body. He also said its transportation plan was lacking.

The school plans to use RideFinder, a technological service for parents to connect for carpooling. The school’s leaders said they would do “whatever it takes” to get students to school.

School leaders also said they believe the charter’s substantial marketing budget would help bring in a diverse population by advertising the school throughout the community.

“I firmly believe that school choice improves outcomes for all students,” Eagles wrote in his letter supporting the school. “It is imperative that we have additional school choice and capacity in and around Rolesville to promote the overall health of our community.”

Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf