The Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School, one of the nine “fast-track” charter schools approved to open this fall, is having issues getting a building to use for its scheduled fall opening.
Named after Howard Lee, a past chairman of the state school board and former Chapel Hill state senator, the public charter school reapplied to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to open for the 2013-14 school year, according to its DPI application.
National Heritage Academies, a Michigan-based for-profit charter school chain that runs five other schools in North Carolina, has already been contracted to run the school.
The charter school has a permanent location in mind, but hasn’t been able to get the proper permits to construct the charter school, according to school leaders’ statements to DPI. The charter school is still looking for temporary locations, and will open this fall if they find one in time.
But the charter they got from the state was only good for a fall 2012 opening, and delaying a year will mean it has to go through the approval process again with DPI and the N.C. State Board of Education.
In the fast-track round, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system opposed the charter school application, indicated it would drain the school system of needed funding, decrease diversity efforts in the current school system and send students to a untested charter school run by a for-profit company.
The Howard and Lillian Lee school has said it plans on targeting black and Hispanic students that lag behind their white counterparts in statewide testing.
Angela Lee, Howard and Lillian Lee’s daughter who has spearheaded the effort to open the school, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
From the school’s 2013-14 application(available here  on DPI’s website):
[T]he Board has encountered challenges regarding the school’s facility. A permanent site has been identified and a letter of intent has been executed, but the unanticipated, lengthy process of obtaining a conditional land use permit prevents the Board from constructing a new facility before August, 2012. To resolve this issue, the Board is working diligently to secure an appropriate, alternative, smaller, temporary facility. Multiple facilities are being considered and the Board is currently determining which facility is in the best interest of students.
Despite its diligent efforts, the Board acknowledges that, pursuant to a motion by the State Board of Education, the approval of the Lee Scholars’ fast-track charter application shall be “null and void” in the event the school is unable to open this fall. Therefore, the Board respectfully submits this contingent charter application (the “Application”) to open a charter school in August, 2013, in the event that the Board is unable to secure an alternative, temporary facility.
National Heritage Academies typically purchases buildings for the schools and then rents them back to the non-profit school boards that run the public schools.