Arapahoe Charter School: Building the Dream, Living the Dream

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Excited student at Arapahoe Charter School.

Arapahoe Charter School first opened its doors in 1997 and, for the next 20 years, the school relied on modular facilities to create a learning environment that offered the kind of individualized instruction and family atmosphere that is unique within our region. Enrollment has doubled in the twenty years since the school’s creation, in part because its academic excellence and supportive learning environment have attracted students beyond Pamlico County, N.C.

We have always dreamed of having a permanent state-of-the-art facility for the students, staff, and entire community that has supported us throughout our development. And our dream has now become a reality.

After 20 years as the only free public school of choice in a five-county region, Arapahoe Charter School has completed construction of an $8.9 million facility. The project is funded by a combination of investments from Arapahoe Charter School and Tideland Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), the local not-for-profit cooperative. This was in addition to a USDA Rural Development loan serving our 550 studentsmore than half of whom come from outside Pamlico County.

A teacher teaching a class of students at the school.

Arapahoe Charter School continues to foster a learning environment that offers individualized instruction and a family atmosphere. We are a teacher, parent, and community-directed school--and all of those parties are involved in the governance of the school. Each entity shares the responsibility of providing an exceptional educational environment for our students.

Students learning about bus safety at the school.

Arapahoe Charter School teachers and parents recognize that each child is uniquely different and may, at times, need special instruction and attention. We strive to meet the needs of our diverse community, sparking the learning desires of below average students” at risk of giving up on learning, while challenging average students” to do their very best, and motivating above average students” to rise to their full potential.

Five years ago, in response to the overwhelming demand from our parents, a high school program was added offering the Arapahoe Charter School experience to students from kindergarten through high school. With a projected graduation rate of 96 percent, parents and staff take pride in preparing students with what they need to succeed in education and in life.

As our programs have grown and developed, our physical facilities had not.  For that reason, the Board of Directors committed itself to building a permanent facility for our students. This exciting building initiative created 18 K-8 classrooms, exceptional children’s classrooms, a media center, and a new cafeteria and kitchen. 

The most difficult aspect of building this new facility was the lack of capital funding. While the state’s public district schools receive monies to build and/or improve facilities each year, public charter schools receive none. As a result, our fiscal managers looked for other sources including the USDA and Tideland EMC who provided no interest or very low interest loans. In a climate where banks tend not to want to lend to charter schools, we are fortunate to have several things going for us.

The fact that Arapahoe Charter School has been successful for over 20 years, has worked in our favor. This coupled with “good financial neighbors” who worked with us to secure the necessary funding, made our new facility possible. It has been a long road to get here, and not without its setbacks, but with sound fiscal management and the support of our community, our dream came true. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be one of a handful of charter schools that has secured the resources to build a new facility–and we’re still not done.

We have already begun to plan for completing our dream with the addition of a high school wing. Even though the biggest obstacle to construction is a lack of capital funding, we are confident it will happen. We hope other public charter schools out there that are operating out of former shopping centers and mobile units will read our story and be inspired to build their dream.

It’s not all about the brick and mortar. Our dream has allowed us to expand our programs including Theatre Arts, Visual Arts, Robotics, STEAM, Operation Veggie Box, Sports, Entrepreneurship Programs, Project-based Learning, AIG Program, and College/Career Promise. ACS employs school counselors, a social worker, registered school nurse, reading specialist, and offers an After-School program.

The site of Arapahoe Charter School.

We push ourselves each day to do our very best for each and every child at Arapahoe Charter School. Our motto has and always will be “ReThink School”.

Maureen Donald presides over Journalism and Public Information for Arapahoe Charter School.

Learn more about the facilities challenge many charter schools face and help ensure charter schools can open their doors to students!