• Money woes force charter school to close

    By: Greg Suskin

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE - Once exams are over on Friday, Entrepreneur High School on Central Avenue will close for lack of funding. The school needs $400,000 to reopen. It's the latest in a string of charter schools to shut down over funding issues.

    If you haven't heard of Entrepreneur High School, Board Chairman Rob Hillman said that was part of the problem.

    "Not many people know we're here, and that marketing was important," Hillman told Channel 9 Tuesday.

    Entrepreneur High School meets in a former Hanaford grocery store in east Charlotte. The school started in September with the expectation of as many as 300 students.

    However, attendance was in the mid-90s at first, then fell to only about thirty students presently.

    The state board has recommended pulling the school's charter. Charter schools are required to have a minimum of 65 students enrolled in order to maintain state funding.

    Hillman said there are a dozen passionate teachers at entrepreneur. They teach many students that the system can no longer reach. Some are court-ordered to be here, and that has led to disciplinary problems this first year.

    "They're teenagers. Those things happen," Hillman said.

    Classes focus on job skills, and use donated equipment to teach automotive work, construction, medical, and other fields. The school has developed partnerships with several businesses and corporations that have donated money and materials for classroom use.

    But the school's debt is largely a failure to draw major corporate and individual backers for ongoing expenses. Tax money alone is not enough to pay the salaries of teachers and staff.

    "We're in a very tough place. We basically need to get some committed financing to cover the operating gap for the school," Hillman said.

    Hillman said some students left for other schools because they were disappointed that not all the classroom instruction was available at one campus.

    Kelle Pressley says her daughter loves the school. She's a culinary student with strong career goals.

    "The concept of entrepreneur is wonderful," Pressley said. "I just think it should have been planned more strategically than it was."

    "I think getting the right partners, it can be resurrected," she said.

    Two other Charlotte charter schools, Concrete Roses Academy and Student First Academy have also recently closed over money troubles.

    Parents said charter schools are needed because they give students important job skills that are often not available at a standard public high school.

    "This is about getting kids the education they need," Hillman said. "If we fail at that we condemn them to low paying jobs, and the cycle of poverty."

    Board members at Entrepreneur are optimistic they can raise the money needed to reopen the school sometime during the second semester.


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