Durham could get three new charter schools in 2015
Durham is set to get three of the 11 charter schools approved for North Carolina this week by the N.C. Charter School Advisory Committee.
The three schools, including one that would become the state’s first statewide online charter school, must also be approved by the state Board of Education, which has traditionally followed the advisory committee’s recommendations.
“It seems like a lot for one school district to absorb,” said School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter.
If the schools are approved by the state board, Durham would be home to 14 charter schools, counting one that is scheduled to open in August.
The schools approved by the advisory board this week would open in August 2015.
The schools approved by the advisory committee include:
-- Excelsior Classical Academy, whose curriculum would be based on the classical Trivium, which comprises grammar, logic and rhetoric.
Plans call for the school to open with 280 students in kindergarten through third grade, and to grow to 910 students in K-12 by 2025.
-- KIPP Durham would be part of the national charter school chain Knowledge Is Power Program, a national network of college-preparatory public charter schools that prepares students in underserved communities for success in college.
The school would open with about 90 fifth-graders and expand each year until it enrolls 360 students in fifth through eighth grades.
-- N.C. Connections Academy would be an online charter school with plans to serve 1,000 students initially. It would grow to serve 2,000 students in grades 6-12 in its third year of operation.
The growing number of charter schools in Durham has been the topic of much discussion in Durham and a major cause of concern among school board members, some of who contend they siphon valuable resources from traditional public schools.
“I think we have enough charter schools in Durham,” said School board member Natalie Beyer. “I think we need more oversight from the state to shut down ineffective charter schools in our community.”
The announcement of the three schools comes as the Durham school board wrangles with a projected enrollment growth in charter schools that will cost the district an extra $716,000.
The school district already passes through more than $15 million in local money to the district’s existing charter schools, an amount that will certainly grow if three new charter schools open in Durham.
As part of its proposed $408 million spending plan for the 2014-15 school year, the school board has asked the county for the $716,000 to cover the projected enrollment growth in charter schools.
The school officials are expected to deliver the district’s budget to the county by today for commissioners to begin considering the district’s request for $120.9 million in local money.
Without the $716,000 district officials say is need to cover enrollment growth in charter schools, the district would have to cover the cost out of its own funds, which means per pupil spending on students attending traditional public schools would decrease.
“This is an important conversation to have with our commissioners because I don’t think that’s their intent,” Beyer said.
Carter said proliferation of charter schools in Durham has had the unintended consequence of socially and economically re-segregating schools and creating a two-tiered system of education in which children are becoming more racially isolated.
“Does our community see re-segregation of the schools as a price it’s willing to pay for charter schools to flourish?” Carter asked.
The state received 71 charter applications in December, including eight from organizations wanting to open schools in Durham.
Nine of the 71 applications were deemed incomplete and the remainder screened by the advisory committee, state Office of Charter Schools staffers and consultants before the advisory committee settled on 11 to move forward in the process.