The North Carolina State Board of Education has approved Millennium Charter Academy’s application to expand its charter to include grades 9-12. A little more than three months ago, MCA’s Board of Directors approved the application to expand the academy to teach grades K-12.
“We are excited,” said academy Headmaster Kirby McCrary. “We will require all students in the high school to apply to a four-year institution, but this is quality education for everyone and our curriculum is also a college preparatory one. Our focus is on knowledge, thinking well and the ability and skill to articulate thoughts well.”
According to McCrary, an ad hoc steering committee was formed October of 2011 to study the feasibility of the proposal. The school served grades K-4 beginning in 2000 and had a proposal to expand to teaching the fifth grade approved in 2001. Millennium received approval to expand to its middle school in 2005.
Since the academy received a yes from the state board, the school could open the ninth grade in the fall of 2014 and would add an additional grade each year afterwards for the remaining three years. In its first year, the school hopes to take on around 40 to 60 students and two to four staff members plus a college counselor. Higher than anticipated enrollment numbers would require additional staff.
He said the proposal approved by the state will require an expansion of the current facility. McCrary said no concrete plans have been made for the location of the proposed facility to house additional students. He said other issues the feasibility committee has studied included projected enrollment, additional support services, staff and faculty that would be needed, marketing, student class schedules, curriculum, mission and vision for the school and character education for high school students.
“We don’t know yet where the high school will be,” added McCrary. “My feeling is that currently the committee is leaning towards locating it on the campus (in Mount Airy). No formal decisions have been made yet.”
The proposed expansion would be funded from the academy’s own operational budget or through a combination of private and government sources other than county funds.
“The high school will only positively impact the K-8,” said McCrary. “Monies for the operation of the high school will not come from K-8 school budget or staff or facility.” McCrary stressed the proposed expansion would be a continuation of the school’s emphasis on a college preparatory curriculum.
He said the proposed high school programming will build on a classical model of liberal arts education tied to the developmental level of students. McCrary said the curriculum also will meet state requirements for core curriculum and also include educational clusters, or elective subject options.
McCrary explained these clusters will offer students science, technology, engineering, and math concentrations (STEM), an arts and humanities concentration, or an entrepreneur concentration. He added that one expectation of the high school would be that all students apply for college.
Both Surry County and Mount Airy boards of education had filed impact statements with the state board opposing the charter expansion application by MCA.
Surry County’s statement estimated the county would lose 108 students if the expansion was approved. The county board’s impact statement estimated a loss of $684,243.70 if 108 students chose to enroll at the academy. The county’s statement predicted a loss of $1,267,188.00 if the total enrollment expansion of 200 students came from the ranks of county students.
The board’s impact statement reported a total of 262 students from Surry County were enrolled at the academy which represented 3.2 percent of its Average Daily Membership (ADM) and calculated the percentage would rise to 4.4 percent if 108 students were enrolled at Millennium.
The impact statement also indicates the charter school proposed growth duplicates existing programs in the county high schools because “all the traditional high schools in Surry County Schools offer a college preparatory course of study. Additionally, there is an Early College High School program operating within the district.”
The statement also indicated the expansion would cause county schools to experience a minimum decrease of one teacher position per year and additional staffing reductions due a decrease in ADM and an increase in class size.
The county report also said that, depending on the residential district of the students, the county high schools could be reclassified within the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The report states “the distribution of the students by residential zone could impact the ability of our schools to field athletic teams, continue to provide marching band programs and compromise other extracurricular activities.”
“We were certainly disappointed at the board approving this measure,” said Mount Airy School Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little. “We all have the same goals, to educate students and that students are well served. I haven’t read any published report that has convinced me the academy is offering something different — something that couldn’t be currently accessed by (Mount Airy School District) students. I have doubts anything offered at the academy is that different from what we offer.”
Little said Mount Airy High School and Mount Airy Middle School have set up high standards of education for each child and said the district will continue to nurture and support “every student that comes through our doors.”
“If only a dollar is diverted from these efforts, it is disappointing,” added Little, pointing to Mount Airy High’s academic honors including being awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award for Academic Excellence in 2011. He noted MAHS being rated as one of the top career technical education schools in the state and noted the 1.42 percent district dropout rate as one of the best in North Carolina.
“We are unsure on what the impact will be because we do not know yet how many students eligible for our high school will not attend,” said Little. “Whatever happens we will continue to strive to be one of the best high schools in North Carolina. We have a long run, an unbroken string of successes, built on the history of excellence and traditions at Mount Airy and that makes us unique. “
Little pointed out 80 percent of the district’s 2012 graduating class indicated they were going to college and together received a total of $1.5 million in scholarship money. He likened the process of additional charter schools across the state to taking pieces out of a pie that is getting smaller.
The impact figures supplied by the Mount Airy School District indicate 148 students attending MCA in the 2014-15 school year and projects an additional 15 students attending the academy’s high school program for a total of 163 students. The total local financial impact is listed as $187,680 and a total loss of state money amounting to $976,099 for a total loss of state and local funds of $1,163,779. The total for projected local, state and federal funds lost was estimated at $1,426,694. The total amount of total local, state and federal funds from 2014-15 through 2017-18 is set at $7,130,794.
Reach David Broyles at dbroyles@Civitasmedia.com or 719-1952.