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Kannapolis charter school could open in 2016

If all goes as planned, the first charter school in Kannapolis could open its doors in Aug. 2016.

Kannapolis Charter Academy is one of 40 proposed charter schools that submitted applications to the state in September.

The school would be a sister school to Cabarrus Charter Academy, which opened in Concord in Aug. 2013 and has between 800 and 900 on its waiting list.

“They’re asking for a sister school,” said Sandy Castro, director of development for Charter Schools USA. “We definitely can fill it.”

Charter Schools USA is the education management company partnering with the North Carolina Charter Educational Foundation to establish Kannapolis Charter Academy.

North Carolina Charter Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that would serve as the governing board for Kannapolis Charter Academy. They will determine the school’s mission, vision and values, as well as be responsible for the school’s legal and financial operations.

With a board comprised of nine members, they also run the charter school in Concord and Langtree Charter Academy in Mooresville.

Charter Schools USA provides development, management and marketing services, such as finance, human resources, curriculum and school operations.

In addition to the schools in Concord and Mooresville, Charter Schools USA manages schools in Cary, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools, but report to their governing board rather than the local school board. This gives them flexibility in their curriculum and programs. They are still accountable to state safety and testing standards.

While some charter schools choose to focus on one aspect of curriculum, such as fine arts or math and science, Kannapolis Charter Academy will be a general, college preparatory school.

North Carolina charter school attendance isn’t based on city, county or geographic area, but are open to any student in the state. The funding for each student comes from the school system they would attend based on their home address.

Castro said they expect 25 percent of Kannapolis Charter Academy’s students to come from Kannapolis and 25 percent to come from Rowan County. The remaining 50 percent are expected to come from Cabarrus County.

The school would serve kindergarten through sixth grade its first year and add an additional grade each year until it reaches eighth grade.

It would also grow in capacity each year for the first four years. The first year, 661 students would be accepted, with 903, 1076 and 1145 students the following three years.

Enrollment would be based off of a lottery system. Any student in the state would be allowed to enroll. If more students enrolled in a grade than there was space for, a lottery system would be used to select the students who were accepted.

Siblings of students who were already registered, as well as children of employees and board members would get preference. If a student isn’t accepted via the lottery system in case there is an opening in that grade.

Castro said it’s too early in the process to buy property or commit to a specific location, but they want the school to be located in Kannapolis City Limits, preferably “somewhere near the Research Campus.”

If approved, the school would begin looking for teachers and staff members through Charter Schools USA.

“We try to do our best to be similar to what the public schools are paying,” Castro said.

Instead of awarding raises on a step system like traditional public schools, raises are based on merit. Teachers are given a full benefit package and laptops and iPads to use.

They would be employees of the board of governors and Charter Schools USA.

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