Inching closer

Published 7:39pm Sunday, July 20, 2014

WINDSOR – Building block by building block, the Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy (HCLA) is taking shape.

Bertie County’s first-ever public charter school will open its doors to 240 students on Aug. 26

“This has been a very nail-biting time for us, but I’m very pleased to report that our contractor is moving full speed ahead,” said Kashi Bazemore Hall, the Founding Executive Director of HCLA.

Hall was giving a progress update on the school to the Bertie County Board of Commissioners at their July 7 monthly meeting.

The temporary site chosen for the school will be behind the Cashie Convention Center at 118 County Farm Road in Windsor.

“I just got an update moments ago from Mr. (Nick) Shook, our interim principal, who indicated that he has checked on the project site and we should see units being delivered out there by the end of this week,” Hall added.

She further stated that they have been granted a zoning variance for their location thanks to the Town of Windsor.

“We were able to get the domain modification, so the Windsor Planning Board and the Windsor Town Commissioners have given us a conditional use permit to house our temporary building for two years and we will begin construction on our permanent site as of this fall,” Hall said.

HCLA began enrollment on Jan. 20 and currently 208 applications have been received (NOTE: as of July 16 that number was up to 218 as per the HCLA Facebook page).

Hall stated that she is very excited about the enrollment numbers, the location and where the school is headed.

Word about the school is spreading thanks to Open House events that have been held at Uplift Academy on Ghent Street in Windsor and another planned for July 22. Hall says over a hundred people have attended these events.

HCLA’s hiring process continues and Hall said she was encouraged that some of the applicants from out of town expressed a desire to return home to teach.

Hall feels the public perception of the charter school is positive.

“We’ve received an outstanding show of support, not just from people who would have children at the school, but from people who want to see the school do well,” she said.

Hall says HCLA is one of just five schools that will be opening this year and next year as part of the Charter Schools Accelerator Program and the only stand-alone school in the program, meaning they are the only school in their region not affiliated with a larger school’s accelerators.

“I want to leave you with an expression of how grateful I am for your support,” she told the Commissioners. “Of course our local funding is essentially coming from you.  We’re making some major adjustments and we’re crossing our fingers that our state expenditures will not decrease.”

“We (the school’s leadership) are committed to keeping our budget balanced,” she maintained. “We voluntarily took a $10,000 pay cut so that our numbers would be where they need to be.”

Hall says a Durham-based contractor, Steve Hubric, has mandated that HCLA’s enrollment numbers be an indication that the school is able to pay for its temporary as well as permanent facilities.

“Much of what he is investing will be built into our financing as part of our permanent facility,” she said. “We’re very confident that his awareness of (funding sources) will put us in a good position.”

Hall says by the opening date of Aug. 26 they expect to meet their enrollment of the 240 students, grades K-3 with a qualified staff.

“People are watching BertieCounty now,” she explained. “They’re looking at how this stand-alone charter school will do.”

The majority of HCLA’s students, Hall claims, will come from Bertie County Public Schools, roughly 182; but there are also students coming to Heritage that had been at other area public and private schools.

“There’s still much to be done between now and next month,” she said, “but we’ve got the right team and the right support system to make that happen.”

Chairman J. Wallace Perry inquired about the school’s transportation situation and was told HCLA hopes to acquire four extended buses for a higher volume of students.  Hall also said HCLA had met with Bertie County Public Schools superintendent Elaine White and her cabinet to see if the charter school might contract with Bertie schools in child nutrition services and transportation.  She said they are in the process of reaching an agreement on the nutritional services.

“We’re trying to figure some things out since we don’t have a cafeteria in our temporary facilities,” Hall stated. “Our transportation route will be determined once all of the registration packets are returned; and we will operate in clusters.”

Hall said all students in Bertie County would be picked up by the yellow buses, while students in surrounding counties would be picked up at drop-off points that are close to the county line.

“Bertie County is huge,” she insisted. “Transportation is going to be another big expenditure and we are in negotiations with a local business person to provide mechanical services for our buses.”

Hall asked for continued support from the commissioners and complimented Superintendent White for the open policy that Bertie Schools has maintained in doing what’s best for children.

“She has made her professional development opportunities open and available to our teachers and we are doing the same,” Hall said.

HCLA’s website: www.heritagecollegiate.org is now open and Hall says a technology coordinator has been hired and the website is official.  She also hopes things between BCPS and the charter school will go well.

“Our budget is very stretched,” she claimed. “We are doing what it takes to make it work, and we hope we won’t have a hassle with funding for students from Bertie County.”

Hall says the HCLA budget is public record as required by the state and that she would make the amended version available to County Manager Scott Sauer.  Also, an open house for students is planned once the facilities are up and open.  Previous open house events had been for parents.

She also said critical response and a safety plan are in place to be presented to the Bertie County Sheriff’s Department as far as security of the facility and student welfare, but she has not met with law enforcement as of this date.

Commissioner John Trent asked Hall to make those security and well-being concerns a priority.

“I will add this (critical response and safety plans) to our agenda,” she said. “Thank you for putting this on my radar.”

 

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