03/16/14 — New local charter school on track for August debut

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New local charter school on track for August debut

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 16, 2014 1:50 AM

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This site will be the home of Wayne Preparatory Academy, one of the state and county's newest charter schools.

The county's newest charter school is on track to open in August, with a site secured and applications being accepted for both students and administrators. A series of community meetings are also taking place through the month to provide information about the tuition-free school.

Wayne Preparatory Academy received a preliminary charter last summer from the state Board of Education. Dr. Ken Benton, chairman of the board for the local school, said he was notified by the N.C. Public Charter School Advisory Council and has been busily moving forward ever since.

"We have bought the 52 acres on the corner of Patetown Road and Tommy's Road," he said Friday. "We got our rezoning and approval of the Planning Board and City Council finalized Feb. 12. We have our charter. It's in good stead with the state."

Opening date for the school is Aug. 24, Benton said.

"We will start out with K-4, and we're expecting to have around 400 enrollment for those grades," he said.

The school is designed to serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade. At present, applications are being accepted for kindergarten through fourth grade, with a grade to be added incrementally in subsequent years. Benton said eventual plans are to obtain high school status, expanding to grades 9-12.

While a physical site has been secured, construction will happen later.

"We're going to put modules in, but they'll be very sturdy modules," Benton said. "Our land is getting ready to be prepared. We're working with the state in terms of our technology, putting lines in for computers for our students. We're in the process of all the background work that's being done."

Benton said the board has been working with some builders and there are drawings and plans in place for the proposed structure. Recent weather and the site preparation have been contributing factors to the delay, he said, so putting in modules at the outset is "the easiest thing" to do.

Wayne Prep actually becomes the second charter school in Goldsboro. Dillard Academy, started in 1998, serves children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Until recently, though, there was a cap on the number of charter schools the state could have, set at 100. In 2011, the General Assembly voted to lift the cap, allowing an unlimited number.

Charter schools are considered tuition-free public schools, but are governed differently by non-profit organizations. They also have more flexibility with curriculum.

Charter schools receive state, local and federal dollars.

"We get no up-front money from the state," Benton said. "We get it on a per pupil basis -- just like the public schools, except the per pupil allotment, that's a state allotment. Public schools get 100 percent and charter schools get 80 percent of the allotment allowed.

"So we have to operate under a very stringent budget. That's kind of the plight of the charter school. One of the great things about charter schools, they can operate at that budget level and have an excellent school."

Funding for construction is another matter.

"That funding we get -- basically, we have some backers who are coming in and helping us with that," he said. "We have come up with two backers or financiers who are helping us finance this. And we'll basically lease those buildings until they're paid."

The other expense incurred will be for personnel. Benton said he expects to staff the school with about 40 teachers, as well as administrators.

"We hope to have a principal, managing director, expecting to have somebody in place by the end of this month," he said. "That's our hope and our plan."

Several community meetings have been scheduled to provide more information about the school. The next will be Monday at Academics Plus, 706 Berkeley Blvd.; and on March 25, and March 27, both at the Republican Party headquarters.

A website on the school has been established at wayneprepnc.org. Interested parents can also email the school with questions or to be included in future notifications at Info@wayneprepnc.org.