Zoning board hears school's plans

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 07:04 PM

Henderson Collegiate public charter school took a giant step forward Tuesday in their plan to begin teaching to grade 7 and grow by another 100 students next year.

The plan is for a 45,000 square-foot, two-story new school construction off McArthur Street in the South Henderson area that would allow the school to fill out as a 500-student middle school for grades 4-8.

The full staffing of the school would add 14 new full-time faculty and staff positions plus four new part-time jobs, according to Henderson Collegiate Principal Eric Sanchez.

The Henderson Zoning Board of Adjustments unanimously approved the plan to proceed, and Sanchez said that is good news for the school’s mission of preparing low-income children for colleges and careers during the critical middle-school learning years.

“We have achieved as a school of distinction in the North Carolina school system,” Sanchez said, referring to a high honor among public schools. “The reputation of the school has definitely begun.”

He added that he is following up on studies that demonstrate the importance of completing a full middle-school program – vital because those are the years of greatest concern in predicting patterns of dropping out verses patterns of education success.

“Henderson Collegiate is making a difference,” Sanchez said. “It’s not about just getting children to float along, but to achieve and be college ready.”

The charter has been granted for a grade 4-8 middle school, according to Sanchez.

“We are at 300 students now, and we are outgrowing our property,” he said.

Cliff Rogers, in charge of construction and engineering details for the school, said that details are quickly fusing together. Preliminary plans can be accommodated by pre-fabricated modular or stick-built construction methods, but the goal would be uncompromising on reaching the result of a permanent long-lasting school facility.

In answer to questions by the zoning board, Rogers said that landscaping, grading and structure construction would be to code. Once plans are finalized in detail, they would be presented to city staff for their certification.

The school would utilize city water and sewer. It is in the south Henderson area of the extra-teritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, just outside the city limits.

The school would have a kitchen and dining area, as well as a sports field, according to Rogers, and the area would be lighted well. The sight plan would decide much of the engineering details to come, he added.

Most recently, state DOT engineers suggested a one-way traffic pattern that would utilize separate car and bus entrances from Old Epsom Road, and that would exit onto a newly constructed road, utilizing also a roadway off of McArthur Street.

“It’s just incredible to me to see what they are doing,” Rogers said. “The school has been growing 100 students per year for the last three years, and the goal is to grow another 100 in the coming year with the addition of the seventh grade.”

In comments to the Dispatch, Sanchez said that he and the school leadership did have hopes for locating to the Recreational, Educational, Entertainment and Family project’s Zene Street location, but that those ideas ran up on time constraints for the growing school.

“Any smart person generates a list of options, with the hope that the better option would present itself,” Sanchez said, siting the priorities of timing, budget and overall program vision.

“This option enabled us to meet the needs of our kids in the most feasible timeframe,” he added. “Timing was the biggest issue for us, but the REEF project is something we continue to be excited about and fully support.”

Sanchez said that plan specifics are quickly developing, and as they do so they will be shared among all the stake holders of the school as well as with  appropriate city offices.
“Today was a huge step,” he said.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com