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Chapel Hill charter school in limbo (with update)

National Heritage Academies, a for-profit company that manages charter schools around the country, broke ties with the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School,  which is supposed to open this fall in Chapel Hill.

It’s unclear whether the charter school will still be able to open. It was approved by the Sate Board of Education under the condition that the board would contract with National Heritage Academies for day-to-day management. Any changes would have to go back before the state board.

The  Chapel Hill News first reported news of the split today, and indicated that the Office of Charter Schools under the N.C. Department of Public Instruction was unaware of the changes.

“We’re very disturbed and disappointed,” Danita Mason-Hogans told the Chapel Hill News (a publication put out by the News & Observer). “Right now we’re trying to decide what we’re going to do as a board.”

National Heritage Academies, which runs several other public charter schools in the state, typically builds new school and rents the space back to the charter school’s non-profit board of directors.

The same arrangement had been planned for the school to be located in Carrboro, the small town adjacent to Chapel Hill.

NHA released a statement saying they no longer wanted to operate the school, calling it a “difficult decision” and showered praise on the volunteer school board members. But the written statement did not indicate what led to the charter school operator to pull out of the agreement.

Angela Lee, the daughter of Howard and Lillian Lee and lead applicant, also did not immediately return a call for comment.

The school was named after Howard Lee, a former Chapel Hill mayor, state senator and chair of the state board of education from Chapel Hill, and his wife, an educator. The school initially indicated its goal was to close the achievement gap between black and white students in the Chapel Hill area.

The school was supposed to open up in the fall of 2012, but delayed its opening by a year  to find time to secure land and space.

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