Monday, June 24, 2024

Charter schools receive nearly $500K in local endowment grants, NHCS didn’t apply


NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Announced earlier this month, grants from the New Hanover County Endowment were given to 110 recipients, the majority nonprofits, though some public entities did receive awards.

New Hanover County Schools was not one of them. 

READ MORE: NHC social services says it needs $100K but county rejected endowment grant

A reader reached out to Port City Daily via social media to question why the school system received nothing, comparing it to three local charter schools’ combined awards of almost $500,000.

NHCS spokesperson Russell Clark told Port City Daily the district did not apply for any endowment grants this cycle. 

“We’re waiting for the larger grants to open,” he said.

In this inaugural round, grants were capped at $250,000 per organization. The county’s higher education institutions, Cape Fear Community College and UNCW, received multiple grants across different departments and divisions; UNCW received nearly $400,000 while CFCC received $500,000.

The New Hanover County Endowment has not finalized the details of its next cycle or what future caps will be. 

“The NHCE Board is currently determining what next year’s Cape Fear Opportunities and Needs grant cycle will look like,” spokesperson Jada Harkins Andrews said. 

Though Clark did not know specifics the district wants to fund with larger awards, he confirmed, “I know there are some projects that it can probably be used for.”

Classical Charter Schools of America, Beacon Education and Wilmington School of the Arts were awarded grants this year to be utilized for repairs, construction and transportation.

Charter schools are funded with public dollars and, therefore, considered public institutions; they cannot charge tuition nor discriminate in enrollment processes. How they differ from traditional schools is the flexibility in curriculum, calendar, and policies, certified through a charter with the state.

While the schools receive federal, state and local funds, they are barred from state and local capital funds.  

Classical Charter Schools of America, which operates Douglass Academy in Wilmington and Roger Bacon Academy in Leland, was awarded $194,900 for capital improvements to the Wilmington campus. With a current enrollment of 124 students, the school opened almost a decade ago to provide education specifically to Wilmington’s Black community. 

“The historic building, which has housed our tuition-free, open enrollment K-5 charter school since 2013, is now 80 years old,” the school said in a press release. “To continue providing families in Wilmington’s inner city with a classical education emphasizing basic skills and traditional values, additional facility improvements are needed — over and above the more than $800,000 CCS-A already has spent on building safety and renovations. The grant from New Hanover Community Endowment will make this possible.”

Douglass Academy will use the money to seal the historic building’s brick exterior, a $98,000 project. The school will also use $45,000 of the award to remove asbestos in the south wing of the leased Peabody Building at 506 N. Sixth Street. Six classrooms have yet to be utilized due to the contamination. 

Also covered by the grant: installation of an A/C unit in the school’s auditorium for $39,900 and additional insulation for the building for $12,000. 

The endowment issued Beacon Education $200,000 for a commercial kitchen. It will go toward the education nonprofit’s fledgling early childhood education center, Spark Academy. 

Beacon Education — which also oversees GLOW Academy — announced in May its plans to open the facility at 102 S. 17th St., the first of four or five early childhood education centers it has planned for the region. Construction is underway on converting the former Wilmington Health OB/GYN offices to a school. 

The kitchen will be used to to feed the school’s attendees, ranging from 6-weeks-old to pre-K. GLOW Academy CEO Todd Godbey told Port City Daily the grant will fund one of its key missions. 

“It’s very difficult for families with fewer available financial resources to have access to high-quality, five-star early childhood education,” Godbey said. “One of those barriers is that most five-star centers like that don’t provide food, so one of the things that we’re doing to remove barriers is providing food.”

The kitchen will provide Spark Academy’s projected 170 students with breakfast and lunch every day. Godbey said enrollment registration is set to open in February with the goal of opening Spark Academy by August or September. 

The Wilmington School of the Arts will use its endowment grant of $80,000 to purchase a new bus with air conditioning. The additional vehicle will make two AC-functioning vehicles to transport WSA’s 197 students to the school. 

“WSA’s need for improved transportation services for our students is a natural fit with the endowment’s mission to improve the health, education, safety and economic opportunity of some of our youngest stakeholders,” WSA spokesperson Dustin Richardson said. “We are excited and fortunate to have been selected as a recipient of this grant.”

Classical Charter Schools of America

  • The mission is to teach students the rules and techniques for effective expression and communication in the arts and sciences, to communicate, by these arts and sciences, their understandings of the universe and students’ role in it, and to instill a love of learning and discovery, justifying a life-long dedication to health, truth, and virtue. This grant will support capital improvements, including A/C unit, building sealing, and the removal of asbestos. $194,900

Beacon Education

  • By ensuring equitable access to high quality education, Beacon Education empowers children and their families to close, and even reverse, the achievement and opportunity gaps. This grant will support the installation of a commercial kitchen. $200,000

Wilmington School of the Arts

  • Wilmington School of the Arts is a tuition-free, public charter school which offers a project based, fully arts integrated curriculum. This grant will the purchase a new bus with AC so that their students can have a cooler and safer ride to and from school on the longer routes. $80,000

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com 

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