Lake Lure Classical Academy charter school building toward opening Aug. 18

Published 6:46 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Temporary modular classrooms were winding their way Thursday toward the future campus of Lake Lure Classical Academy, perched on trailers pulled by semis.

It is a new day for the Lake Lure community, which has been without a school of any kind, but a challenge for Polk County and other area school-system administrators who want to retain their own students and the funding that comes with them.

Theres been no school in close proximity to this area, so were giving families a chance to save on their commutes and have their children close to home, said LLCA School Director Caroline Upchurch. The state realized that theres been a real need in this community for a school thats more centrally located.

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And we are a public school were just a new public school in a place that needs one.

Because LLCA is a charter school, it is potentially open to any student who can legally attend school in North Carolina, regardless of home district. It will require no new taxes from Rutherford or neighboring counties such as Polk, or from the town of Lake Lure.

However, Polk County Schools Superintendent Bill Miller said the school district could stand to lose a substantial amount of funding if more than a handful of local students opt to attend LLCA.

Altogether, its about $8,000 (per student) in funding from the state, the county and federal funds, Miller said. So, if 10 of our students make that decision, do the math. Thats $80,000 in funding we lose.

The N.C. State Board of Education voted to place the new charter school at Lake Lure this past March. LLCA will have its own charter, but will be run by the same foundation that oversees Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy in Mooresboro. Funding for the construction of the school is coming from the Challenge Foundation, a national trust fund set up to help charter schools.

Upchurch said the new school gives an option to families in the Lake Lure area, which borders Polk and Rutherford counties but is also easily accessible to populations in McDowell and Henderson counties.

Teachers will begin work on Aug. 2 and LLCAs inaugural classes will report Aug. 18.

So far, some 223 students have registered to attend LLCA, and Upchurch said about 43 percent (approximately 96) of those are from Polk County. Polk Central Elementary is the closest county school to Lake Lure.

LLCA will offer classes for kindergarten through high school. It will extend a Core Knowledge curriculum for students through the eighth grade and a college preparatory curriculum for high school students, which will also include Latin, logic and rhetoric.

Its amazing how everything is coming together and falling into place so quickly, said Upchurch, who visited the construction site last week and toured one of the modular classrooms, which will connect to form LLCAs first campus.

Miller does not yet anticipate a battle for Polk Countys student population. He said it is unclear how many Polk County students are considering LLCA beyond those who have already registered, but wants them to weigh the decision carefully.

In a small place like Polk County, we dont have a community orchestra or a YMCA or even a council on mental health, he said. We (the school system) are everything. Thats why I believe our community supports us so well. We are recreation through our 33 sports teams. We are the arts. We are music.

“We are the cumulative effect of all our clubs and organizations that make us what we are.

While the district has been faced with budget cuts at the state level, Miller said he is determined to remind local students and parents that Polk County Schools have scored consistently among the best in the state.

Our test scores, our performance is one of the highest in the state, he said. Were a small school system to have all the arts programs we have in all the schools we have them in.

We need to make sure people understand the quality of the programs we have.

Regardless of how many students from Polk County choose to attend LLCA, Upchurch said those decisions are not an indictment of Polk County Schools.

Oh, Ive heard fabulous things about the schools here, she said. I just heard on the radio about a recycling program at one of the high schools in the area, and I thought how amazing that was that those students and teachers are being proactive about thinking green. I think the schools are doing a phenomenal job.

Were here because there was a need in this community and an outcry that has been going on in this community for more than 10 years.