The Paideia-based school, which pulls a number of students from Matthews and Mint Hill, first opened its doors to middle school students after getting approval from the North Carolina State Board of Education in March 2007. But serving sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students was only half the plan. Written in the charter from the beginning, Charlotte Secondary leaders always anticipated adding ninth through 12th grades, if they could get state approval.
And they did – getting the go ahead just last year and adding ninth and 10th grades this school year. Combined with a last-minute location change that left the school with a larger facility and more room to grow, Head of School Beth Daniel Warshauer said 2013-14 so far is definitely a year for the books.
“Our old facility wasn’t much to look at,” Warshauer said, adding the space was just too small and made it hard for students and staff to really feel at home. “But I always found myself telling parents ‘the magic of our school is in the magic of the classroom.’”
It took some hard work and a few kinks to work out to ensure the new space and high school curriculum was ready for the 2013-14 school year, Warshauer said. Now, the school, which is located off of Monroe Road at 8601 McAlpine Park Drive, has big plans for the future as leaders work to get the school ready to add an additional 110 students next year. They’ll also continue on with 11th grade, one year closer to the school’s original vision.
“I think there is a sense of deliberate haste with the high school because I feel like I have to get this right for them now,” Warshauer said of the expanding high school. “We don’t have the time to go through the growing pain process now.”
Next year’s student population has the capacity to be 440 students, which would make their current 27,000-square-foot space a little tight. But thanks to Levine Properties, who has partnered with Charlotte Secondary and its expansion, Warshauer said, the school can access the rest of the space in the business-park style building, which sits between two fields and gives the school a more campus-like feel. The three-phase expansion plan, Warshauer said – which would allow the school to be at full capacity at 600 students, 80 students per grade – would bring the school’s facilities up to 52,000 square feet.
“We hope to use some of that space next year and do a formal upfit for the next year,” Warshauer said, adding in the meantime, the school also is fundraising for an athletic and performing arts space.
But those plans come at the success of the high school, as school leaders continue to work out kinks with scheduling, ensure the high school students feel enough separation from middle school and tweak and add curriculum offerings that will give the college-preparatory-based school the upper hand in academics and electives.
Plans already are in place for next year to expand the school’s foreign language options to include Chinese, to improve the school’s performing arts department and dig deeper in its health and physical education programs.
“We just want to be a little bit more deliberate,” Warshauer said. “I also think our high school is ripe with opportunities – we’ve talked about really building an inquiry-based, hands-on science program. I think what we have is the opportunity to build really great co-curricular programs here. We just want to do as much as we can do to give our students the most opportunities.”
The first lottery for next school year was Friday, March 7, and included sixth through 11th grades. Warshauer said the school would most likely host a second lottery in June. Find more information on the school at its website, www.charlottesecondary.org.
North Carolina public charter schools are publicly funded through state and local tax revenue and are operated by non-profit corporations and board of directors. The schools are open to all North Carolina residents and do not charge tuition.