09/07/04 — Charis Prep School not within state rules

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Charis Prep School not within state rules

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 7, 2004 1:57 PM

A private school that opened in Goldsboro today has not taken the proper steps to abide by state regulations, say state officials.

This could mean that parents whose children go to the school are guilty of violating the state's compulsory-school attendance laws.

Charis Prep, a private school founded over the summer and operated at Abundant Life Fellowship on Sheridan Forest Road, has been advertising enrollment for children in grades kindergarten through 12.

The Raleigh News and Observer reported last month that high school basketball standout Jimmy Graham was attending Charis Prep. Graham attended Community Christian School of Wilson last year. His basketball coach at Community Christian, Carlos Peralta, is the minister at Abundant Life Fellowship and an administrator for Charis Prep.

Peralta said he had registered with state authorities, but Rod Helder, director for the state's Division of Non-Public Education, said his department has never heard of Charis Prep. Helder's department is responsible for seeing that the legal requirements are met by non-public schools in the state.

Peralta said he submitted information about the school to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, and it has been approved. The next step would be for the department to inspect the entire school, which is scheduled for Friday, he said.

He said that all of the approval would be retroactive and that the students' parents understand this.

Helder said he had heard nothing about the school from the Department of Public Instruction. DPI officials said that if they had received it they would have passed it along to Helder's agency.

Helder's division keeps a county-by-county list of the non-public schools, and Charis Prep is not on it, Helder said. Another new private school in Wayne County, Pathway Christian Academy, is on the list.

To get on the list, a school would have to go to the department's Web site, obtain the required paperwork and forward it to Helder's department with evidence that the school was inspected to meet building, fire, sanitation and safety codes.

When received, Helder would schedule a visit to the school. Then the school would be revisited after the first achievement testing was completed and every year thereafter.

Goldsboro's chief building inspector, Ed Cianfarra, said today that his department had not heard about the school, nor had the fire inspector.

Helder said the initial approval process can take up to 30 days. If the church has been inspected according to county ordinance, the building, fire, sanitation and safety codes of a church may be different than for a school, because the school gets more hours of use per week than a church.

Helder said that if an unapproved school is discovered -- usually reported by the county school system of the county in which the school is located -- the school's administrators are not held liable under the law.

But he said the parents of the students would be in violation of a law that requires all parents to send their children to a state-approved school. That is a misdemeanor.

It is not known whether Charis Prep has been accredited by any organization.

Literature from Charis Prep says school tuition is $200 a month and $50 a month more if the student needs to be boarded. The literature outlines an elementary, middle school and high school curriculum and says that "all Charis Prep teachers have a minimum of a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. We prefer NC certified teachers."

The literature includes a student application and a request for records, with Peralta's name and address on it as the requesting official.

Peralta said that his school opened today for grades 1 through 12. He said it has 67 in-state and out-of-state students enrolled and has six teachers. It is still enrolling students, and Peralta said he plans to continue enrollment for a few months.

The school is in the church's education space and has been in the planning stages since the spring, he said.

He said he has taken several steps regarding the school's accreditation. The school, he said, has been registered with the National College Board, which is the first step in the process. He said he is in the process of registering the classes with the NCAA, or the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NCAA will not review new schools for classes until October, he said.

It is being accredited by ACSI, which is the Association of Christian Schools International, he said.