Wake Ed

Cardinal Charter seeks 2nd delay for new school in Knightdale area

Cardinal Charter Academy at Knightdale wants state permission to delay opening until 2018 amid continued difficulties finding a location for the school.

Cardinal had originally received state permission to open in 2016 but was granted a one-year delay to open in 2017 after saying it couldn’t find a building in time in Knightdale. Cardinal had planned to open next year in East Raleigh, but school officials say that site is no longer an option because of expensive road requirements from the state Department of Transportation.

“Given the challenges described herein, we respectfully request the State Board of Education extend us another year delay in order that we can continue to move forward with our efforts in locating a suitable site to serve our intended population of students in the Knightdale/East Raleigh community,” Allen Taylor, board president of Triangle Charter Education Association, wrote in an Oct. 24 letter to state officials.

“It continues to be our goal to provide a quality education option for these students.”

The N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board unanimously voted Friday to recommend that the State Board of Education approve the additional delay. Advisory board members expressed sympathy with the difficulties of accommodating DOT requests for school sites.

“I have seen all the DOT problems that we’ve been seeing with some of these schools lately,” said Steven Walker, vice chairman of the advisory board. “It’s not just charter schools that are getting this. It’s the traditional public schools as well (that) are getting hammered by DOT with the things DOT is requiring to get a permit.”

The State Board will vote on Cardinal’s request at an upcoming meeting. But the board could opt to turn down the request and force Cardinal to surrender its charter.

A similar situation occurred in 2013 when the State Board rejected a request from the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School in Orange County for a second one-year delay. The vote resulted In the school losing its charter. It has not reapplied since then.

Charter schools are taxpayer funded schools that are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow. There are 167 charter schools open statewide this year.

Cardinal has run into multiple obstacles trying to open a school in Knightdale, forcing it to expand its search into East Raleigh..

School leaders said they had reached an agreement in April 2015 with a property owner to build the school at Legacy Oaks in Knightdale. But the board says they abandoned the location after then-Mayor Russell Killen told them the site would not be supported.

Cardinal then turned its attention to a property on Poole Road with plans to build a two-story, 68,000-square-foot school on the site. But the Knightdale Town Council rejected the rezoning request in December 2015 amid concerns about how locating the school there would impact traffic and nearby property owners.

The rejection of the Poole Road site caused school officials to say they’d look for a site outside Knightdale. In the Oct. 24 letter, Taylor said a site was found in East Raleigh but it’s no longer feasible because DOT is requiring $1.9 million in road improvements to build there..

“The time required to locate yet another new property, perform due diligence, secure entitlements, etc. will preclude our board from opening in August 2017 now that the East Raleigh site is not an option,” Taylor wrote.