Southeast Raleigh private school will close; charter school moving in

A private school in Southeast Raleigh is closing, and a charter school is moving in.

Upper Room Christian Academy announced Monday it will close its elementary school on Idlewood Village Drive this spring. In a news release, school leaders said enrollment is dropping and the number of charter schools is on the rise.

Upper Room sold its 33-classroom facility for $7 million to PAVE Southeast Raleigh Charter School, which opened in a temporary location on South Wilmington Street last fall.

“The decision to close the school was a very difficult one but realistically, it is nearly impossible to compete with free education,” Bishop Patrick Wooden, pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, said in a news release.

Upper Room will continue to run its preschool, which currently serves 189 students at the Idlewood Village Drive facility. Though PAVE and Upper Room have no affiliation, PAVE leaders agreed to lease space to Upper Room for a couple years as the charter school continues to grow.

“It has been our pleasure and privilege to serve the community over the years and we look forward to our continued partnership as Upper Room Christian Academy transitions its focus to early childhood education,” Pamela Wooden, president of the school’s board, said in the news release.

Upper Room Christian Academy opened its 66,000-square-foot Idlewood facility in the fall of 2001, serving 65 students. The $5.2 million building was meant to accommodate 600 students, but enrollment never reached half that.

The school had 235 students and 20 staff members in the 2006-07 school year, according to the N.C. Directory of Private Schools. Last school year, there were 107 students.

PAVE currently serves 120 mostly low-income and minority students in kindergarten and first grade. It plans to increase enrollment to 230 students through second grade this fall and hopes to serve 750 students through eighth grade by 2022.

The school’s popularity – enrollment applications for this school year were nearly three times the available slots – is fueled in part because it provides students bus service and free and reduced-price meals to those who qualify.

Charter schools receive public funding but do not face some requirements of traditional public schools, including transportation and meals.

J.B. Buxton, PAVE’s board chairman, said the Idlewood facility is in great shape and fits the needs of PAVE. It has a gymnasium, athletic fields, cafeteria and computer lab.

“I think the location is still really good for the type of population we are trying to reach. We are excited we are able to stay in the basic geography of Southeast Raleigh.”

PAVE will open at the Idlewood location this fall.

“It’s great for our families to have a full school,” Buxton said.

Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf