The charter school on Erda Way is going to get bigger and bigger.
Excelsior Academy in Erda has plans to bump its approved enrollment number from 675 to 750 this coming fall — and then to 1,215 in fall 2018.
The school’s board of directors have applied to the State Charter School Board for “safe harbor status,” for the 2017-18 school year.
Safe harbor status, as requested by Excelsior Academy, will allow the school to enroll up to 750 students for this fall, according to Stephanie Eccles, Excelsior Academy’s school director.
“We currently are approved for 675, but we have around 715 enrolled right now,” Eccles said.
The state charter school board has already approved funding for the current additional students. Eccles said Excelsior Academy is seeking formal approval for more students for next year.
“We’re committed to providing our education to all the students that want it,” she said.
Excelsior Academy has already received approval from both the State Charter School Board and the Utah State Board of Education to raise its enrollment to 1,215 starting in fall 2018, according to Eccles.
“According to the state, we are a highly effective school,” she said. “We consistently have a waiting list of over 400 students. I feel we have a moral obligation to give the Excelsior education to more students in the county.”
The existing Excelsior Academy school building will undergo a remodel this year and a new construction project next year in preparation for the planned growth, according to Eccles.
By this coming fall, a new music room will be built on to the west side of the school. The music room, approximately 1,300 square-feet in size, will be attached to the current building. It will occupy the grass space just outside the current building’s west door.
The current music room will be divided to make two classrooms. An expansion of the cafeteria will take away one classroom. Another classroom will be sacrificed to make a new faculty workroom as part of a plan to add six new adult restrooms to the building.
“We have around 100 people on our staff and only two adult restrooms,” said Eccles. “This is a problem because staff must use the adult restrooms.”
To accommodate 1,215 students — 135 in each grade — a new 55,000-square-foot middle school building will be built on five acres that the school will purchase that is adjacent and to the east of the current property, according to Eccles.
The middle school building will house sixth through eighth grades, but sixth grade will become part of Excelsior’s middle school program with the start of the 2017-18 school year, according to Eccles.
Architectural plans for the new building have yet to be drawn, but Eccles said its design will hopefully include 18 classrooms, a cafeteria, a full-size gym, specialty rooms for Career and Technology Education, and a black box theater.
“We want the building to have all the specialized rooms needed for students to get the usual middle school experience,” she said.
Eccles and the Excelsior Board of Directors are working on a loan for around $10 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program.
Excelsior currently has three USDA loans totaling $9.4 million for the current building and remodel projects.
The loan will be paid by the state funding received by Excelsior.
Charter schools are publicly funded independent schools authorized by the Utah State School Board. They are public and open to all students, charge no tuition and have no geographic boundaries for attendance. They receive funding from the state based on enrollment. Charter schools also receive a portion of the property tax levied by their local school district.
If more students apply to attend a charter school than its capacity allows, selection of students is done by lottery.
Excelsior Academy was the first charter school in Tooele County. It opened in fall 2009.
While approving the expansion for Excelsior Academy, the State Charter School Board noted, “Excelsior Academy is a high quality school providing positive student outcomes. This is a successful school that the State Charter School Board desires to elevate and promote.”