Carolina Voyager Charter School looking to build new school, needs CCSD approval first

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Charleston County School is in need of new building soon. Monday night members from the school’s community gathered to rally outside the Charleston County School District headquarters hoping district leader’s would hear their voices.

Carolina Voyager Charter School has been searching for a permanent home for roughly six years across the Lowcountry. Five of those years have been spent at the Old Saint Andrew’s High School but the school’s leaders says if construction of new school doesn’t start soon, students may not have a place to attend class.

Students and staff at Carolina Voyager Charter School are hoping they’re one step closer to the reality of finding a new home.

“We’ve been in rented space, it’s not our school,” says the charter school’s leader Dr. Harry Walker. “And again, (we’re) very gracious and very thankful that the board has leased us the space but it’s not ours.”

The Charleston charter school has leased Old Saint Andrews High School from the Charleston County School District for the last five years. Dr. Walker says the school’s community has been raising money to build its own home but says there are challenges standing in the way.

“I feel like I am a middle-aged man living in my mom’s basement and all I really want to do is move out and get my own place,” says Dr. Walker. “I’ve saved enough money, I’ve got enough money to move out and I just need my mom’s permission to say go ahead son.”

The school’s charter with the Charleston County School District requires a new building to be built in downtown Charleston. Dr. Walker says high real estate prices in the city makes a downtown build unaffordable.

“We’ve been there for five years and since that time we’ve grown and we’re at the point now where we’ve raised enough funds that we can build our own school,” says Dr. Walker.

Despite raising funds to build a new school, Dr. Walker says the charter school’s only option is to build outside the city. He says the school has a West Ashley location in mind but needs the school district to approve the exception.

“But again, we have to get approval because our original charter stated that we would be located downtown,” says Dr. Walker.

Carolina Voyager’s lease at Old Saint Andrews High is set to expire in 18 months putting the charter school in need of securing a long-term permanent home. Dr. Walker is hopeful the Charleston County School District will make a decision quickly but knows there’s a process that must happen first including the district reviewing the original charter agreement.

“If we were to build and start our building in the next couple months, we could conceivably be open in eighteen months to go into our new school building, so time is of the essence,” says Dr. Walker.

Students, parents, staff and the school’s community are hoping for a solution sooner rather than later so there’s no disruption in learning.

“They deserve their own school, our school community has worked so hard,” says Dr. Walker. “We have the financial resources to do it and it would just mean the world to the group you see behind me.”

No official decision on whether or not the Charleston County School District would grant approval for the charter school’s West Ashley build was made at Monday night’s school board meeting.

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