Alpha Academy has completed a 40,000-square-foot expansion that more than doubled the Fayetteville charter school’s size.
The $4 million addition includes classrooms, science and computer labs, a conference room and an auditorium that can easily seat 500-600.
It’s a far cry from the church gym that housed the school when it started operating 16 years ago. Alpha Academy had about 60 students then, in grades 6-8.
Come August, when its next school year starts, the school expects up to 900 students from Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke and Robeson counties in pre-kindergarten through ninth grade.
“It’s been our vision,” said Susan Slocum, who runs the school with her husband, Eugene Slocum.
Alpha Academy is one of two publicly-funded charter schools in Cumberland County – Capitol Encore Academy on Hay Street is the other – and one of 158 in the state. Charter schools are publicly funded, can be run by nonprofit or for-profit companies with oversight by local boards, and operate under fewer rules than traditional public schools.
Susan Slocum said charter schools are the subject of intense scrutiny and expectations and serve an important role, offering educational choices.
“We complement the public schools,” she said.
The Slocums say Alpha Academy has rigorous academic classes. In the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s most recent annual performance grades of public schools, for 2014-15, it received a C and was judged to have met expectations for student academic growth.
“We have a very strong principle of respect,” Susan Slocum said.
They say those goals have guided the school since its founding. Alpha began in 2000 in a church gym on Fort Bragg Road. It was supposed to have the full use of the church building but was limited to the gym because costly repairs were needed elsewhere. Initial plans called for the school to add high school grades over time. And for a year or two, it did offer ninth and 10th grade classes but pulled back when their enrollment fizzled.
Instead, as the school overcame early financial challenges, it expanded in the other direction, adding elementary, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classes.
It also outgrew the gym and operated for several years out of separate locations on Hay Street and Morganton Road.
By 2012, it had outgrown those locations and moved all operations to its current campus on Raeford Road near the Cumberland-Hoke county line. The school has grown swiftly since then, adding several hundred students. It had a waiting list by the end of the last school year, Susan Slocum said.
The expansion will allow the school to cut into its waiting list and once again set its sights on offering high school level classes. It will start with a ninth grade in the coming school year. A 10th grade may be added at some later point.
“Our goal is to make sure we have a good, solid foundation,” Eugene Slocum said.
The expansion will house the sixth through ninth grades as well as the school’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics program.
Staff writer Catherine Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3517.