by Joe Schwartz
The Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School is a long shot to open in August. Its founders are struggling to find a suitable temporary location for the school as they navigating the zoning approval process for a permanent site.
Amid opposition from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board and the local NAACP, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved fast-track status for the Lee School in February, clearing the way for the group to open later this year.
But now, as a backup plan, they say, the school’s brass has submitted a request to the state to open in 2013.
Danita Mason-Hogans, a member of the Lee board of directors, said the group identified one site in Chapel Hill and one in Carrboro but neither area was zoned for a school. She said she did not know the exact locations.
“There are some problems with both of the spaces based on the number of students we’d like to have in the school,” she said. “We had full intentions of opening in August. Now it looks like that may be put on hold.”
In its 2013 application, which mirrors its fast-track paperwork, the Lee group admits that though a permanent site has been found and a letter of intent has been executed, "the lengthy, unanticipated process of obtaining a conditional land use permit prevents the board from constructing a permanent facility before August."
The Lee school was among nine granted charters after the Republican-controlled General Assembly abolished the 100-school statewide cap. Fast-track schools were supposed to be "shovel ready." If a school fails to open in August, its charter will be "null and void," according to the SBOE. The applicants, lead by Angela Lee, submitted for 2013 as "a contingent charter application."
The for-profit, Michigan-based National Heritage Academies will run the school in partnership with the local board.
The question remains: When?
"We're looking at a lot of different options right now," Mason-Hogans said. "We are going full steam ahead for 2012, but being that that's like three or four months away … we're hopeful, but I don't know that it's likely."