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29 seek to open charter schools in Charlotte area

Charlotte’s charter boom is poised to keep growing, with 19 applications to open new schools in Mecklenburg County in 2014 and another 10 from surrounding counties.

North Carolina’s Office of Charter Schools got 70 applications by Friday’s deadline. Mecklenburg drew the largest number by far, followed by Wake County with nine.

Full applications will be posted later this week, but the summaries posted Monday indicate plans to open several large K-12 charters in the region, each serving 2,300 students or more.

Charters are public schools run by independent nonprofit boards, rather than local school districts. Once the state grants a charter, those schools get state, local and federal money and charge no tuition. Unlike traditional public schools, attendance is not limited by county lines; many in the Charlotte area pull from two or more counties.

Applications are reviewed by the Office of Charter Schools and a volunteer advisory council, with the N.C. Board of Education deciding which will be authorized to open in 2014-15.

The Charlotte area has long had a strong charter presence. Ever since the N.C. legislature removed the 100-school cap in 2011, the region has led the state in charter growth. Seven of the 25 charters that have won preliminary approval to open in August are in or near Mecklenburg County. A final vote will come Thursday.

According to the 2014-15 applicant list posted Monday, the 19 new schools proposed for Mecklenburg County would serve more than 14,000 students when they reach full capacity, though charters often open with smaller numbers. The largest are Concrete Roses STEM Academy, designed to serve 2,400 K-12 students, and Lake Norman Preparatory School, designed to serve 2,345 K-12 students.

The names on the list indicate at least three of the Mecklenburg applicants want to focus on STEM studies, for science, technology, engineering and math. One is filed under the name West Charlotte High School, the name of a long-standing Charlotte-Mecklenburg school.

Elsewhere around the region, Union County drew three applications to serve about 4,350 students total. The proposed Union Preparatory would serve 2,345 K-12 students.

Cabarrus also got three applications, for about 3,300 students. Gaston and Iredell counties each got two applications, including Catawba Charter Academy in Gaston County with 2,345 K-12 students.

The list of applications is available at the Office of Charter Schools web site, and full applications will be available there soon: www.ncpublicschools.org/charterschools/

Helms: 704-358-5033
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