Lake Norman Christian picked for IB lease
by Staff Writer
by Tori Hamby
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrators announced Tuesday they plan to lease the former Davidson IB Middle School building to a private, Christian school – much to the dismay of Davidson town officials.
At the school board’s Tuesday, July 26, meeting, Dennis LaCaria, district director of facilities planning and real estate, presented the staff’s decision to lease the more than 60-year-old building at 251 South St. in Davidson to Lake Norman Christian School. Since opening, Lake Norman Christian has operated out of Lake Norman Baptist Church, at 7921 Sam Furr Road in Huntersville.
A Lake Norman Christian School board member could not be reached for comment before the Herald’s press deadline. School administrators have, thus far, refused to say what the private school offered for the lease.
The school district considered two other tenants – the Town of Davidson and the Guardian Alliance. The Guardian Alliance placed bids on all 11 available buildings, with plans to create a network of community centers, but school district administrators did not approve any of its lease proposals.
Davidson officials were not happy with the school board decision, and Mayor John Woods said Wednesday morning the town is investigating avenues of appeal.
“We are disappointed with that news,” Woods said. “The decision came as a complete surprise, following months of verbal assurances” from school system administrators “that the building and property would best be managed by the town.”
Town officials had never tried to contact Rhonda Lennon, north Mecklenburg’s representative on the school board, or school board members to lobby for a lease of the building, Woods said. “We were dealing with staff, and we were assured all along that this was a staff decision and not a school board decision.”
Lennon said Tuesday night’s meeting was the first time she learned of the staff’s decision, and while board members helped develop criteria for choosing tenants, they were not involved in the decision-making process.
Town officials thought getting a long-term lease of the building, similar to the one the town has for the Ada Jenkins Center, was settled except for the contract details, Woods said.
“It’s still a mystery to us,” Woods said of the school system’s action.
“Frankly, we feel very strongly that placing the property in private, parochial use is inferior to the public use we had envisioned for the property,” Woods said, especially since much of that use could be education-related.
Personally, Woods said he would like to see the IB building used for a “major expansion of the after-school program” now operating at Ada Jenkins. The Ada Jenkins program is limited by space, Woods said, and the town’s lease of the IB building could have enabled the program to double or triple the number of children served.
Through public meetings and discussion, the town had envisioned “a number of uses, park-and-recreation related, community-center related,” Woods said.
After town officials are able to talk to school administrators, Woods said they may appeal to Lennon and other school board members.
“I’m in the process of trying to reach school officials this morning,” he said Wednesday.
According to a Wednesday, July 27, news release, school administrators said the district used the following ranked criteria for choosing a tenant for the building:
• 10 – Benefit to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students
• 9 – Educational use
• 8 – Benefit to neighborhood
• 7 – Benefit to community
• 6 – District liability
• 5 – Tenant quality
• 4 – Ease of management
• 3 – Maximize net revenue
• 2 – Improvements
• 1 – Nonprofit/municipality/local government use.
According to the release, the district and Lake Norman Christian will begin lease negotiations shortly. The district also will hold Lake Norman Christian responsible for operating and maintenance costs.
Davidson IB Middle, which operated the Middle Year Baccalaureate Program, shut down at the end of last school year due to its small size, high operating cost and poor building condition. The program and its students have since moved to J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville.
– Staff writer Frank DeLoache contributed to this article.