Lake Norman & Mooresville

Parent group once again seeking to open charter school in Iredell County

A small group of parents once again is seeking state approval to open a charter school in Iredell County, possibly in Mooresville, after having its application denied twice in the past two years.

If approved, supporters hope the school, Lake Academy, can open for the 2017-18 school year with grades K-5 and enrolling about 575 students. They intend to expand within five years, adding grades 6-8 and enrolling a total of about 915 students.

Where exactly it would open remains undetermined, said Neil Serdinsky, a Cornelius resident who is chairman of the group, whose five members are from Iredell, Mecklenburg and Watauga counties. He added that should the school receive preliminary approval from the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board, the group would hold a series of parent meetings throughout the county to decide on its location.

The proposed school is one of 28 across North Carolina that are seeking to open in August 2017, awaiting word on applications they submitted over the past month to the state Office of Charter Schools. Nearly half of them are proposed to open in the Charlotte region, where the number of charter schools has increased noticeably since the state lifted its 100-school cap in 2011.

The applications are under review by the charter school advisory board, which will make any recommendations for final approval to the N.C. Board of Education in May, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction said. The board, which is the policy arm of the department, has until August to do so.

Funded largely by tax dollars and governed by independent nonprofit boards, charter schools charge no tuition, and their enrollment is not limited by geographic boundaries.

Iredell is home to four of them: Pine Lake Preparatory and Langtree Charter Academy, in Mooresville, and American Renaissance School and Success Institute Charter, in Statesville.

Asked how Lake Academy might differentiate itself, Serdinsky said it would “provide students with an academic culture not currently available,” adopting a liberal arts curriculum that he said is used by no other school in the county and that has a “proven history of academic excellence and scholarship.”

The curriculum, Core Knowledge Sequence, is traditional in the sense that if focuses on art, history, language arts, mathematics, music, reading and science. It aims to “produce academic excellence, greater equity and higher levels of literacy in all students,” including low-performing ones, Serdinsky said.

The Lake Academy group initially sought state approval in 2013 to open for the current school year, though its charter was denied along with those of several dozen other applicants. Last year, it was one of three that unsuccessfully sought to open in Iredell for next school year.

It has yet to apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, though Serdinsky said that would happen if the school’s charter is approved.

Among the requirements for charter school applicants in North Carolina is that they define the goals of their proposed school and explain how it would function.

In its recent application, the Lake Academy group said: “All students will achieve their highest potential through a rigorous, content-rich curriculum grounded in the tradition of a classical education.”

Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: