Lowcountry Leadership Charter School leaders can’t wait to move into their new building, but they have permission to continue holding classes at their temporary campus if construction is delayed again.
The Charleston County School Board approved in September a 60-day lease of the former Schroder Middle School building in Hollywood to the charter school after construction on its new building got behind schedule. Charter school officials said 60 days was all they would need, and their lease was slated to end on Nov. 13.
HighMark, the company developing the charter school’s facilities, asked the county school board to consider a lease extension, and the board agreed 5-4 on Monday night to allow the lease to continue on a month-to-month basis if its new building still isn’t finished by Nov. 13.
“We were happy with the vote,” said Mache Larkin, the school’s leader. “We’re appreciative.”
She said the school’s attorney sent a letter to HighMark about five weeks ago saying that it needed to have a contingency plan should construction be delayed beyond the 60-day lease.
“We had been in such a panic when all of this first happened ... and we didn’t want to be in that situation again,” she said. “At this point, it was their responsibility to do whatever was necessary to make sure the request was put in for us to have the option to stay should we need to do so.”
HighMark officials told the board the least disruptive and most beneficial option for students and faculty would be to stay on the Schroder campus.
Lowcountry Leadership Charter opened Sept. 12 to about 400 students in grades K-9. The school’s permanent home will be on the campus previously occupied by St. Paul’s Academy, a private school that closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year. The charter school is building an addition for its middle and high school students, and it did major renovations to the gym and an existing classroom building.
The charter school’s new facilities will undergo a key inspection Friday by the state, and Larkin expects to find out when the school will be able to move. She still is planning for the first day on the new campus to be Nov. 11.
“That’s what the plan is, but that doesn’t mean it might not change,” she said.
Board members were divided Monday about whether to let the school stay on the former Schroder campus beyond Nov. 13. Those voting against the month-to-month lease were Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats, Vice Chairman Craig Ascue and members Chris Collins and Michael Miller.
Ascue, Collins and Miller were opposed in September to the charter school being able to use the Schroder building. Many Hollywood residents who fear the charter school will hurt existing public schools turned out at that September meeting when the board considered the charter school’s lease request.
After Monday’s meeting, Miller said the board needs to establish trust and credibility with the community, and that’s done by being open, honest, transparent and consistent. The charter school asked for 60 days in the building, and the board granted that request and should stick by its decision, he said.
“To go back and change it is disingenuous,” he said.
Other board members disagreed. Board member Elizabeth Moffly questioned why the district would give up potential revenue from leasing the middle school building that would otherwise be empty. Any revenue from the lease will go to support District 23 (Hollywood) area schools.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.