After nearly two decades of providing secondary education, Lake Norman Charter School is broadening its focus to include primary grades. The school is awaiting approval to build an elementary school in the southern part of Huntersville.
Expected to house hundreds of students in grades K-5, the school is planned for land along Hambright Road, west of Interstate 77, near its intersection with Patterson Road.
“There is a demand and a need,” Superintendent Shannon Stein said. Citing steady population growth in northern Mecklenburg County, she said the school has placed thousands of students on a waiting list.
Construction would take place in phases, with modular classrooms tentatively scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year, she said. After that, work would begin on a gymnasium, which would open the following school year.
The campus would take up about one-third of the 35-acre property, leaving room for possible recreational amenities such as tennis courts and baseball and softball fields, Stein said.
The two-story school would contain 65,000-80,000 square feet, with kindergarten, first and second grades on the first floor, according to design plans. Eventually, it would house 500 students, starting with grades K-2. The plan calls for modular classrooms no more than five years.
It is estimated to cost $10 million, which the school would finance with funding it receives each year from the county and state. That money is based on enrollment.
The gym is estimated to cost an additional $1.5 million, one-third of which Huntersville could pay for under a potential shared-use agreement announced at its annual planning retreat in early February. Under the long-term agreement, the town’s parks and recreation department would have access to the gym, which would contain as many as 12,000 square feet and include bleachers and locker rooms.
The school approached the town about the partnership, Stein said, citing similar arrangements between the two, including the school’s middle and high school gyms.
The town is expected to make a decision over the next year, said Michael Jaycocks, parks and recreation director.
The plan to build the elementary campus was authorized late last school year by the school’s board of directors.
The school has entered into a purchase agreement with the owners of the property, two families, though it depends on whether its request to rezone the property is approved by the town. A public hearing on the request is scheduled for May, and is expected to go before the town for final approval in June.
As part of the request, the school is required to hold a public meeting to inform residents about its plans. It has already held one, in mid-February, drawing a dozen or more people, Stein said. And it was scheduled to hold another on April 11 after amending its request to rezone the property, this time for campus or institutional use.
The Lake Norman area is home to several charter schools. Among the more established ones are the Community School of Davidson and Pine Lake Preparatory in Mooresville.
Slowly but steadily, enrollment at Lake Norman Charter has increased since it opened 18 years ago as a middle school, initially comprising grades 5-8 before adding a high school a decade later. These days, it has 1,600 students, with about 3,000 students on its waiting list, Stein said.
With a college preparatory curriculum incorporating components of STEM education -- short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- nearly all students go off to college, she said. All told, they draw more than $7 million in scholarships each year.
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org