WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A prominent conservative group sponsored a tour of a new charter school in Wilmington Friday without realizing the school is under state warning due to low enrollment.
Americans for Prosperity invited local elected officials to an event at Douglass Academy, a predominately African American student body in Kindergarten through second grade.
With only 36 students, the school falls short of the state's requirement that charter schools have an enrollment of at least 65.
"Well, I know nothing about it," said John Dudley, state director of Americans for Prosperity. "I mean, we don't know anything about those kinds of warnings. This is the first I've heard of any of this."
Douglass Academy is managed by Roger Bacon Academy in Brunswick County. Baker Mitchell, president of Roger Bacon, explained 80 students were enrolled, but only 36 showed up for class when the school opened in August.
Mitchell said problems landing a location for the school created confusion for parents. School leaders secured and renovated the Peabody Building on N. Sixth Street just in time for classes to begin this school year.
Enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year is 91, according to Batten Sawyer, a Roger Bacon spokeswoman.
Mitchell said Douglass Academy is based on successful charter schools he runs in Brunswick and Columbus counties, were low enrollment isn't an issue.
In fact, in some cases, those schools have to hold lotteries to see which students get in.
"They're both the highest scoring schools in their counties, and this will probably be the highest scoring school in New Hanover County when we get going," Baker said.
New Hanover County school leaders are taking note. School board member Tammy Covil supports charter schools and believes they could improve traditional schools.
"We need to [come to these schools] and see what is attracting students to an alternative school so we can use that, and that's an opportunity for us make our schools better," Covil said.
Douglass Academy leaders will go before the Charter School Advisory Board in March to discuss the school's low enrollment.
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