Since opening its doors as a K-4 elementary school in 2000, Mount Airy’s Millennium Charter Academy has literally grown up along with its student body.
The school expanded to include middle school grades several years into its history, and began adding high school grades one at a time beginning in 2014. Millennium will be a K-11 school in the upcoming 2016-17 academic year, and will graduate its first senior class in June of 2018.
About the only thing that the local charter school didn’t have to offer current and prospective students was a full-fledged athletic program. Some progress was made on that last year, when the Lions fielded volleyball, basketball and track teams at the high-school level. But more progress came this spring, when the school went looking for a full-time Athletic Director to create and implement a complete program of interscholastic sports.
Enter Rodney King, the head track and field and cross-country coach for North Stokes High School since 2001. A certified USA Track and Field (USATF) official, King built a powerhouse program in Danbury, leading the Vikings to the 2014 and 2015 NCHSAA 1-A boys’ outdoor track titles. This past spring, North Stokes missed a three-peat in the final 120 meters of the final event of the state championship meet, finishing as state runner-up by a mere 1.5 points to league rival Mount Airy.
He said that while he wasn’t necessarily looking to leave North Stokes, the opportunity to be an AD at Millennium proved to be a very attractive opportunity.
“My wife had been homeschooling our children, and she was looking for a change,” King said. “We came and took a tour here, and really liked what we saw. I talked to the headmaster and liked what I saw here, too.
“I’d been looking for a little bit of a change in what I was doing at North Stokes, not necessarily wanting to leave, but maybe looking to try some new sort of position. Then the athletic director position opened up here.”
King comes on board at what is an exciting time for MCA, both academically and athletically. At the same time that the school is closing in on graduating its first seniors, an expansion of the school’s facilities is also under way. A new wing of classrooms and a new gymnasium, more suitable for high school competition, are both on the drawing board for 2017.
In the meantime, the Lions are filling out their sports portfolio with the addition of soccer and cross-country teams this fall.
“Another exciting thing that’s going to happen is that we’re going to be hosting our conference’s cross-country championship in October up at Fisher River,” said King. “I think it’s the first time that this school has ever hosted a conference championship. We might also be hosting the state championship, if we can work out the dates at Fisher River.”
Along with the full complement of athletic teams, Millennium also has a new athletic home. The school is one of 12 members in the Central Carolina Conference for Academics, Athletics and the Arts. The conference is a member of a newly-formed athletic association, the Carolinas Athletic Association for Schools of Choice (CAASC).
“It’s a brand-new state association,” said King. “There are about 50 to 60 charter schools, independent schools, Christian schools and homeschool teams that have joined. We can now compete for state championships at the middle school and high school level.”
King said that the teams to beat in the Lions’ conference are the Forsyth Home Educators, Carter G. Woodson School of Winston-Salem, and the Triad Math & Science Academy.
“The Forsyth Home Educators are probably the dominant power, with Carter G. Woodson and Triad also very strong,” said King. “We hope that we’re going to be able to get in there and compete with them very soon.”
Other schools in the league hail from the Greensboro and Burlington areas. At the middle-school level, 15 schools compete in the conference and association. The conference is divided into two divisions to help facilitate travel.
“Our kids are very excited about the sports programs,” said Lu Ann Browne, MCA’s Director of Development and Information Technologies. “We had about 20 kids trying out for cross-country the other day.”
Although Millennium is proud to be offering additional sports opportunities for its students, Browne and King both stressed that the school’s focus remains on academics. The school has higher standards for competition than most traditional schools, in that student-athletes not only have to maintain a “C” average to play, they must also maintain that grade in each individual course as well.
Millennium’s fall sports schedules are not yet finalized, but should be soon, according to King. The Mount Airy News will publish the schedules in a future edition of the paper.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.