Durham home to eight of state’s 71 proposed charters

Dec. 11, 2013 @ 05:24 PM

Eight of the 71 charter school applications received by the state Department of Public Instruction have come from applicants who hope to open charter schools in Durham in August 2015.
The eight applications were among those received by DPI before the Dec. 6 deadline.
The schools proposed for Durham are Antonio Academy, The Aviation Medical Information Technology Academy, KIPP Durham College Preparatory, Lee Scholars Academy, Pinnacle of Durham Charter School, North Carolina Connections Academy, Excelsior Classical Academy and Southpoint Academy.
The application for N.C. Connections Academy, a proposed virtual school, was received by DPI before a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals rejected a bid by an out-of-state company to establish an on-line only charter school.
The court ruled that the State Board of Education could delay consideration of charters while it studies them and write rules for their operation.
A state study group examining virtual charter schools is scheduled to begin its work Friday.
It was unclear Wednesday exactly how the board will handle the virtual school’s charter request going forward. 
The list of proposed charter schools for Durham also includes one that was originally planned for Orange County.
Lee Scholars as it is known was originally called the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School, named after Howard Lee, a former mayor of Chapel Hill who in 1969 became the first black elected mayor of a predominately white town since Reconstruction and his wife Lillian, a former educator.
The school had hoped to open in August in a subdivision in Carrboro, but lost its management company, National Heritage Academies.
The state Board of Education denied a request from the school to delay its opening one year and the applicant returned its charter.
In spite of being listed among the Durham applicants, Stephanie Perry, a member of the Lee Scholars Board of Directors, said school officials still “haven’t settled on a location.”
Colleen Reynolds, a spokesperson for the school, said it will either be in Southwest Durham or Southeast Orange County.
“They are looking in those two areas,” Reynolds said.
She said plans call for the school to eventually educate 1,145 students in grades K-8.
The school has now partnered with Ft. Lauderdale-based Charter Schools USA to manage the school. Charter Schools USA currently manages 58 schools in seven different states, including two in North Carolina.
It expects to manage a third school in North Carolina when the proposed Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary comes on line in 2014.
DPI received 175 letters of intent from potential charter school applicants in September.
The 71 schools that actually submitted applications will soon undergo preliminary evaluations by the state’s Office of Charter Schools before being forwarded to the new Charter School Advisory Board for consideration
Schools receiving preliminary approval from the board will be granted a planning period, and could learn in January 2015 if they have been chosen for final charter approval.
The state board gave preliminary approval for 26 charter schools to open in 2014.
Durham already has 10 of the state’s 127 public charters. 
The schools have bedeviled local school officials who complain that they drain traditional public schools of resources and complicate planning for growth.