For up to 1,800 kids in the Charlotte region, Thursday's vote to approve new charter schools could mean new educational opportunities in 2019.
For Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Gaston County schools, the green light for more independent public schools will mean fiercer competition for what could be a smaller pool of students.
The North Carolina Board of Education's vote to OK eight new charter schools for 2019-20, with four of them located near Charlotte, continues a trend: As the nation faces a possible "baby bust," North Carolina's booming charter school movement is claiming a bigger slice of the students in the Charlotte region.
CMS, which is embroiled in a political battle over a bill that would authorize two suburban towns to create municipal charter schools, projects its first-ever enrollment decline in the coming school year.
Parents seeking options for K-8 students will have four more charter schools to choose from, two of them located in southwest Charlotte's rapidly growing Steele Creek area.
▪ Steele Creek Preparatory Academy, opening with about 600 K-6 students, will be run by the Charter Schools USA chain, with Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour as its board chair. The school plans to expand to 765 K-8 students.
▪ Steele Creek STEM Academy, which agreed to change its name to avoid confusion, plans to start with about 550 K-8 students, growing to about 800 in coming years.
▪ Movement School East will replicate the model started by Sugar Creek Charter School in north Charlotte and expanded to Movement School in west Charlotte in 2017. The new school, which would start with 300 K-2 students and grow to 700 in K-6, plans to serve disadvantaged students with limited English proficiency in east Charlotte.
▪ Ridgeview Charter School in Gastonia expects to serve mostly students from that immediate area, as well as a few from Mecklenburg's west side. It plans to start with 345 K-4 students and grow to more than 600 in K-8.
The eight schools approved statewide, including one in Wake County, were culled from 29 applications. Most of the others were rejected or dropped by the founders. For instance, a proposed Ballantyne High School in south Charlotte was withdrawn in January.
Three of the 29 had won state approval earlier this year, along with permission for an accelerated opening in August 2018. That includes Mountain Island Day School in northwest Charlotte, which is apparently the first Christian school in North Carolina approved to drop the religious aspects and become a public charter school.