The Phoenix Academy, a charter school in High Point, made an announcement that didn’t appear to be all that controversial last week, but it was portrayed as such.
The Phoenix Academy board of directors announced that it was pulling back from its plan to add a high school, and next year would not be offering ninth and 10th grade classes as planned.
The Phoenix Academy had added a ninth grade class this year and had been planning to add an upper grade every year for the next three years.
According to a letter from board Chairman Perry Flynn to Dave Machado, the director of charter schools for the state, Phoenix Academy had run into two problems – one, the expansion was not as popular as they had hoped, and the other was financial.
Charter schools are funded by the state based on the number of students. According to the letter, Phoenix Academy had 43 high school students enrolled this year, which is 3 percent of the student body, but educating those students required expenditures of far more than 3 percent of the operating revenue.
Flynn said that it costs more to educate high school students because of the additional staff, facilities, equipment, curriculum and supplies required.
The board, according to the letter, made the decision that investing so much of the operating revenue for such a small percentage of the school’s student population was not a wise choice.
Phoenix Academy has grown from 300 students and a staff of 35 to over 1,200 students and a staff of 125 in the past four years. It has also constructed or renovated over 110,000 square feet of buildings. It currently operates three schools, primary (K-1), elementary (2-5) and middle (6-8), on three different campuses.
The Phoenix Academy is also the first charter school in the state to achieve International Baccalaureate World School Status according to Flynn’s letter.
In other words, the school has gone through a period of rapid growth and is slowing down.
According to Flynn’s letter, the board of directors doesn’t anticipate the eighth grade reaching its capacity of 150 students until the 2022-2023 school year, and with the eighth grade at full capacity it will make much more sense to expand to the high school when students can be recruited for the high school from within the existing school.
Pulling back after a rapid expansion and slowing down is not unusual in business or education.
According to Paul Norcross, one of the founders of the school, the parents were notified of the decision by the board of directors as quickly as possible after the decision had been made. He said the board had been going over the information and considering the options for some time in order to make the best decision possible for the students and the school.