by Tori Hamby

When Davidson parent Amy Lee dropped her two sons off at Corvian Community School for their first day of school, she didn’t have to spend the morning thinking about an old anxiety.

Her oldest son, a third-grader, was the victim of playground bullying while enrolled in public school a couple years ago. Lee eventually pulled him out and enrolled him in Corvian – which was a low-cost tuition private school at the time. Corvian began the 2012-13 school year Aug. 20 as a public charter school.

“During recess in (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools), teachers are so exhausted that it’s hard to keep an eye on everything going on,” Lee, a former CMS teacher, said. “I knew I felt most comfortable with him here, where teachers use recess as a time to teach emotional and social skills.”

Lee’s son was chosen to attend Corvian through this year’s charter school lottery, allowing his younger sibling to enroll in the school as well.

Corvian opened its inaugural year as a charter school with almost 90 students, the school’s director and founder, Stacey Haskell, said. Formerly housed in a church on Eastfield Road in Huntersville, Corvian now leases a 35,000-square-foot building located in a University City research park on David Taylor Drive.

The building gives the school space to expand. It enrolls kindergartners through third-graders and will add an additional grade each year until eventually adding a middle school and high school.

After North Carolina lifted its 100-school cap on charter schools in 2011, Haskell applied for her private school to take part in the state’s one-time “Fast Track” charter approval process. While schools are required to conduct one year of planning before opening as charters, Corvian and eight other the schools fast-tracked in March had less than six months to plan.

This also meant that students, such as Lee’s son, already attending Corvian – along with all other students wanting to enroll – had to enter the charter school lottery, with no guarantee they would be picked to attend the school the following year.

The $4,000 a year tuition fee was dropped because charter schools aren’t allowed to charge tuition.

The school only had space to enroll 88 out of about 500 applicants, placing the remaining students on a long waiting list.

Haskell knows the disappointment of having a child on a charter school waiting list. Her daughter, Cora, received the 503rd spot on Community School of Davidson’s kindergarten waiting list after Haskell and her husband, Mark, moved to Huntersville’s Skybrook neighborhood from the Washington, D.C.

That’s when she decided to open Corvian, with the intention of later applying for charter status. The school – named after her two daughters Cora and Vivian – opened as a private school in August 2010 with about 50 students.

“We were just devastated when she didn’t get in (Community School of Davidson),” Haskell said. “We knew that was where she was supposed to be.”

From the beginning, the school took a cue from Community School of Davidson and used The Basic School curriculum, developed by former U.S. Commissioner of Education Ernest Boyer, as the backbone for the school. The Basic School places an emphasis on smaller class sizes, arts and language education and the integration of parents as school partners.

Huntersville resident Ed Franklin said the school’s smaller classroom sizes – not exceeding 22 students – and Basic School values drew him to enroll his second-grade son in Corvian.

“We were excited to be chosen through the lottery because we just thought it was a better value,” he said.

University City resident Richard King, whose first- and second-graders attend Corvian, said the school offers flexible teaching styles that traditional public schools can’t get away with.

“The charter schools kind of give teachers freedom within the system and don’t have the rigidity of a public school system,” he said.

And despite living only a bike’s ride away from Davidson Elementary – the school her sons would attend if they were enrolled in CMS – Lee makes a more than 30-minute trip through Charlotte traffic to take her sons to school each morning.

Still, the decision to choose Corvian was an easy one.

“If we didn’t have this as an option, we would probably home school,” she said.