Public records show the Shining Rock Classical Academy plans to build a new school facility were short lived, really just four days.
Companies acting on behalf of the academy, including Schoolhouse Development, LLC, submitted plans to the town of Waynesville to build on a 16-acre tract of land near the present Shining Rock campus. The plans were submitted Thursday, Aug. 1, the very night the Shining Rock board had scheduled a special-called meeting where a closed session was on the agenda to discuss “facilities.” This is not a topic that is eligible to be discussed in private under the N.C. Open Meetings law.
After a three-hour closed session, the board left the meeting without going into open session, even though the agenda item was starred, meaning a vote could be expected that night.
At 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, Jim Way with Schoolhouse Development, LLC, sent the following email to Elizabeth Teague, development services director for Waynesville.
“I regret to inform you that the Shining Rock School Board has decided not to expand into a new facility for next school year. This entire project has been cancelled, so please advise the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Committee that our scheduled agenda is cancelled. You and the entire Waynesville team were very gracious and we were looking forward to working with you. Hopefully, we will be in touch for another project in your beautiful community.”
Part of the planning effort includes the town sending letters to adjoining landowners about a proposed development, which had occurred, and establishing a schedule for the plan to move forward.
That, too, had been discussed, with tentative target dates and meeting schedules set forth between Aug. 14 and Oct. 25, according to a July 16 email from Teague to Way.
The Waynesville Historic Preservation had sent out a notice for an Aug. 7 meeting where the building plans for Shining Rock were to be reviewed.
Abrupt change of plans
The Shining Rock board held a second special-called meeting the evening of Aug. 5, just four days after plans were officially submitted to the town, where a motion was made in open session to suspend any decisions about new facilities. Board members agreed to revisit the issue once enrollment increased.
Earlier in the Monday meeting, School Director Josh Morgan announced that enrollment on the first day of school, which was also on Aug. 5, was 305, which is about 100 fewer students than at the beginning of the previous school year.
The smaller student population base means the school’s operating budget is likely to be $770,000 less for this operating year given that about $7,700 in state and county funds are expected to help educate each public school student in Haywood. Because Shining Rock is a public charter school, it receives the same amount of per-student funding as the Haywood County Consolidated School System.
Neither the upfront costs of preparing for a new school, including contracts with developers and environmental consultants nor the financial implications of a reduced budget have been discussed during public meetings.
The Mountaineer has a public documents request pending for the information, as well as for the minutes kept in closed session when this project was discussed.