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Wednesday, 31 August 2016 13:46

New charter school campus behind schedule

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Shining Rock Classical Academy leaders were hoping students would start classes this year at a new campus on Dellwood Road, but a delay in getting the modular classrooms installed forced them to change the plan. 

With the new charter school campus still under construction, SRCA’s board of directors signed a short-term lease for classroom space at Lake Junaluska’s Wilson’s Children Complex and Shackford Hall. SRCA was contained to the children’s complex during its first year in operation, but had to expand to Shackford Hall this year with the addition of seventh grade and a total enrollment of more than 300. 

SRCA will pay $10,630 a month for the Lake Junaluska space with hopes of moving into its new modular classrooms by the end of September. Shining Rock also has a five-year lease with the Lake Junaluska Assembly for the property across from the lake on Dellwood Road. The school is paying $3,750 a month for 2.8 acres with road frontage plus access to another 20 acres up the hill that includes cabins, a playground and outdoor space ideal for SRCA’s experiential learning classes. 

SEE ALSO: Shining Rock seeks annexation

SRCA students might have started the school year on the new campus if the original modular classrooms the charter school board leased had come through as planned. Shining Rock entered into a lease agreement with MSpace in the spring to provide the school with several used modular classrooms for $360,000 to be paid out over five years.   

SRCA’s board of directors put a $50,000 deposit down on the lease only to find out in May that the manufacturer was experiencing financial hardships and started bankruptcy proceedings. The school board hired a lawyer to get the $50,000 back but needed to find a plan B in the meantime to keep progress going at the new campus. The board later decided to contract with TTHC Building Systems to purchase new modular buildings for $925,000. 

“After we signed our contract with the new company (TTHC Building Systems) we redesigned the interior of the buildings to add space for a teacher workroom/lounge, since that was really important to our staff, and the process of doing that knocked the original schedule off kilter a bit,” said SRCA Chairwoman Nancy East. 

SRCA is also still trying to recoup its money from MSpace, but East said it could be a drawn-out process. The chance of a full refund from the company is low.

“SRCA is an unsecured creditor in a line of dozens of secured creditors to get their money,” she said. “The likelihood of getting even a percentage back through the bankruptcy court is small, unfortunately, but we plan to consult with our attorney to see how we can formally ask for our money back through the court.”

As a charter school, SRCA receives per-pupil state funding but does not receive state money for capital projects like building a school. Shining Rock had to turn to its national affiliate Team CFA for funding. Challenge Foundation Properties, an extension of Team CFA, has provided Shining Rock a line of credit for facility construction. After the issues with MSpace, CFP increased Shining Rock’s credit limit to $2.9 million in order to purchase the new modular facilities.

School Director Ben Butler said the new modular buildings have the capacity to accommodate up to 450 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. This year, SRCA added seventh grade classrooms with plans to add eighth grade in the future. Butler said Shining Rock had 362 students so far this year compared to about 226 last year. 

SRCA had 26 full-time employees last year and 29 full-time employees this year, including 22 teachers, several administrative positions and teacher aides.

Business Manager Tara Keilberg said all but seven students who ended the 2015-16 school year with SRCA will be returning — one transferred to Waynesville Middle School, five moved out of state and one transferred to Junaluska Elementary School.

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