Wake Ed

NC approves Wake County charter school expansions and renewals

Becky Loydâs’ eighth-grade science class meets in an innovation room in the new middle school building at East Wake Academy in Zebulon, N.C. on Jan. 14, 2016. The State Board of Education on Feb. 4 approved East Wake’s request for a 40-percent expansion in enrollment to 1,600 students for the 2016-17 school year.
Becky Loydâs’ eighth-grade science class meets in an innovation room in the new middle school building at East Wake Academy in Zebulon, N.C. on Jan. 14, 2016. The State Board of Education on Feb. 4 approved East Wake’s request for a 40-percent expansion in enrollment to 1,600 students for the 2016-17 school year. amoody@newsobserver.com

The State Board of Education approved Thursday expansions, renewals and delays that will impact six charter schools in Wake County.

The State Board approved requests from East Wake Academy in Zebulon, Southern Wake Academy in Holly Springs, Triangle Math and Science Academy in Cary and PAVE Southeast Raleigh to increase their enrollments by more than 20 percent for the 2016-17 school year. This could allow the four Wake charter schools to boost their enrollments by a combined 830 students this fall.

“We believe that there is and continues to be a need for expansion of charter school seats in Southern Wake County,” Southern Wake Academy’s leaders wrote in the expansion request.

PAVE Southeast Raleigh had originally requested a 59-percent increase in enrollment to 182 students this fall. But the school revised the request to allow it to double its enrollment to 230 students this fall, citing how it will soon have access to larger facilities.

J.B. Buxton, chair of PAVE’s board, said they’ll make an expanded push to recruit more low-income students.

Also on Thursday, the State Board gave a three-year charter renewal to Hope Leadership Academy in Raleigh. With Hope’s charter expiring in June, options ranged from a 10-year renewal to non-renewal.

Hope’s three-year renewal comes with stipulations. If Hope doesn’t meet academic growth in any of the next three years, the school will be asked to appear before the Charter School Advisory Board. That could lead to recommendation of revocation of the charter.

Hope didn’t get the full 10-year renewal because of concerns about the low test scores at the school, which serves a mostly low-income and minority population. But members of the Advisory Board and State Board have said they’re impressed with Hope’s hard work and want to give it a chance to stay open.

“I just would still like to advocate that we would give them a charter longer than a three-year renewal,” State Board member Tricia Willoughby said before the vote on Hope’s charter renewal.

The State Board also discussed this week requests from two new Wake County charter schools – Pine Springs Preparatory Academy in Holly Springs and Cardinal Charter Academy of Knightdale – to delay their opening to the 2017-18 school year. Both new schools had gotten preliminary approval to open for the 2016-17 school year.

On Thursday, the State Board approved Pine Springs’ request for a one-year delay. The board could have rescinded its initial approval for Pine Springs, which would have meant it had to apply again to be allowed to open. But the state Office of Charter Schools had supported the request for the delay.

The delay comes with stipulations:

▪ The delayed year will count as a year of what will become the signed charter agreement;

▪ The board will provide monthly progress reports to the Office of Charter Schools regarding board meetings, marketing plans, and facility construction;

▪ The board will present a Certificate of Occupancy for Education Use to the Office of Charter Schools no later than July 1, 2017. If that document is not presented, then the remainder of the charter term will be null and void, meaning that the board would need to submit a new application in a future application round in order to obtain a charter.

The Office of Charter Schools is recommending the same stipulations as a condition of approving Cardinal Charter’s request for a one-year delay. The State Board could vote on Cardinal’s request in March.

In the case of both Pine Springs and Cardinal Charter, the reason for the delay was difficulty in getting a site in time for the 2016-17 school year.

Now only two new charter schools are scheduled to open in Wake County in the 2016-17 school year: Central Wake Charter High School and Peak Charter Academy.

This week’s State Board actions occur at a time when the Wake County school system is facing increased competition from charter schools.

The school system reports that 9,577 Wake County students are attending charter schools across the state this school year. That’s a 9.4 percent increase in a year where only one new charter school opened in the county. Enrollment in charter schools among Wake County students has increased 51 percent in the last three years.

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