Southern Mecklenburg County could soon be home to several new charter schools, with three new proposed schools in Matthews and Mint Hill, including an application for Queens Grant High School to become its own school.
Seventy-one nonprofits across North Carolina submitted applications to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to open charter schools for the 2015-16 school year. Currently, 127 public charter schools exist across the state, including Socrates Academy in Matthews and Queens Grant Community School, which encompasses all kindergarten through 12th grade, in Mint Hill. An additional 26 schools have preliminary approval and are currently working through the planning phase. Current applicant charters will know sometime next spring if they are approved or not.
Board leaders at Queens Grant are looking to split their K-12 school into two. The school already acts as two different entities, Ted Biggers, Mint Hill mayor and Queens Grant board member, said, with two different campuses and two different principals. But the K-8 school, which sits at 6400 Matthews-Mint Hill Road, is managed by National Heritage Academies, an organization that partners with local school boards to create and manage no-cost public charter schools. NHA only supports K-8 schools, Biggers said, adding Queens Grant High School, located at 10323 Idlewild Road, is not managed by NHA, though the organization does provide some services, such as payroll.
“The high school is managed independently from NHA. We have two separate principals, two separate staff and separate campuses,” Biggers said. “If you look at most charter schools that include a high school, they have all grades on one site.”
Since the schools already act as separate entities under the direction of one board, Biggers said the board is hoping to seek separate charter status for the high school to help with growth.
“If we separate, the high school growth would no longer be dependent on the lower school, and the lower school growth would no longer be dependent on the high school,” Biggers added.
Currently, the high school has been able to accommodate students previously on a waiting list, Biggers said. The current campus has a capacity of about 550 to 600 students with modular units, he said. The school has plans to eventually build a new facility for the high school to prepare for future growth.
But Biggers said if the application were not approved, the community would see no change in how the two schools function. The high school would still exist and function as is, he said, but most likely would be restricted on future growth.
Two other boards presented applications for public charter schools in Matthews or Mint Hill, including Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy and Matthews Academy. Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy would exist as another NHA school, offering kindergarten through eighth grade. The school would act as a sister school for Queens Grant and could potentially help relieve Queens Grant’s long K-8 waiting list. NHA reported in an email to Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly that Queens Grant Community has about 1,300 students on a waiting list.
Matthews Academy would exist as a community school for the Matthews community, John Shurley, a board member for the potential school, said. Shurley, an architect, and a group of about five other parents/board of directors, see a need for another charter option in the Matthews community because Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hasn’t been able to meet the needs of its students, Shurley said. Shurley’s son, who upon entering kindergarten, just wasn’t mature enough when he started public school, and didn’t do well with the public school environment, he said.
“I felt like my son needed something different,” he said. “I sent him to a private school, but I’m lucky because I have the financial capability to do that. My reason for doing this is not just for my own children, but I would like to give high-quality education and make that possible for everyone.”
The school would be open to all economic demographics, Shurley said, and would seek to provide a rigorous education for everyone. Strong character and emotional components also would be key aspects of the school, Shurley said. Upon opening, the school would include kindergarten through sixth grade and would eventually increase to eighth grade.
Find more information or specifics on the applications at www.ncpub licschools.org/charterschools.
Other applicant charter schools that could potentially be located in or near southern Mecklenburg, but open to all students in North Carolina, include:
• Russell Lee Jones Charter High School
• T.E.A.M. D&K Academy
• Union Preparatory Charter School
• Bastiat Classical School
• Unity Charter School
• Charlotte Lab School
• Ballancrest Charter Academy
• Ridgeview Charter School
• Mecklenburg Charter Academy at McAlpine
• VERITAS Community School
• FOCUS Charter School