A charter school that could become one of the largest in North Carolina won state approval Thursday to open in 2019 in Cary on the border with Chatham County.
The State Board of Education unanimously approved Cardinal Charter Academy West Campus, which plans to educate up to 2,180 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The new school, modeled after the existing Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary, represents the latest effort by charter school operators to target the fast-growing western Wake County area.
“They’re a big school,” Alex Quigley, chairman of the state Charter Schools Advisory Board, said Thursday. “But given that area, they will be able to fill that school.”
The new 20-acre school would be located at Yates Store and New Hope Church roads in the Weldon Ridge development, pending approval of a rezoning request by the town of Cary. Organizers project nearly three-quarters of the school’s students will come from Wake County and the rest will come from Chatham and Durham counties.
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Critics say charter schools are targeting the more-affluent families who live in western Wake, where test scores are higher and the percentage of low-income students is lower than the Wake County school district average. Charters are taxpayer-funded public schools that are exempt from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow.
But supporters say they’re meeting the need for school choice, citing the long waiting lists for Cardinal Charter and packed parent information sessions.
Cardinal Charter West would be managed by Charter Schools USA, a Florida-based for-profit company that could receive more than $2 million a year from the new school.
The application for the school was filed in September. Group backers submitted a “fast-track” request to get the application heard first.
Normally fast-track requests are for charter schools that want to open the following year. But Cardinal Charter’s new building won’t be ready until 2019. School planners said they needed state approval by Nov. 14 to make sure they could close on acquiring the property.