Record Enrollment Drives Multi-Million Dollar Campus Expansion
CASHIERS, NC – August 2, 2023 – Summit Charter School, a tuition-free K-12 public charter school in Cashiers, North Carolina, publicly announces Help Us Reach Our Summit, a $6.5 million campaign to support phase II of its expansion from a K-8 to K-12 school. Thanks to the generous support of early donors, Summit has secured $3.7 million toward the campaign goal of $6.5 million, as well as $1 million in donated goods and services to support the construction of the project. As a public charter school, Summit does not receive public funding for capital improvements and relies on private funding to fully fund the needs of its facilities and ultimately, the vital needs of its school children, faculty, and staff.
The Help Us Reach Our Summit campaign is a result of historic growth at Summit Charter School, which was established as K-8 in 1997 and was one of the first charter schools in the state of North Carolina. In 2018, Summit started adding a new high school grade annually, graduating its first senior class in the spring of 2022. Graduating Summit students have achieved a 100% graduation rate with 100% earning acceptance to college, including 71 offers of admission from 31 colleges and universities and life-changing scholarships. 30% of Summit graduates are first-generation college bound.
For the 2023-24 school year, Summit has 311 students currently enrolled, with 8 of its now 13 grades at full capacity. This includes 52 new students. While enrollment has increased across multiple grades, middle school in particular has seen a significant increase over the past two years.
“Since 2019, Summit has experienced a 33% increase in student enrollment. We see this trend as both reflective of the growth in our community, and an affirmation of the value of a Summit education in the lives of our children,” states Kurt Pusch, head of school. “With this growth, our current facilities have reached their capacity. Our goal in this next phase of expansion is to create the additional space to maintain the small class sizes that are distinctive to Summit’s program, and to support our current enrollment growth and longer-term enrollment goals.”
As part of the expansion, Summit Charter School will add a new 15,000 square foot high school building, separate from the school’s existing facilities but remaining on its 33-acres of land. The new building will include traditional classrooms, a science lab, a learning kitchen, rooms for individualized education, an outdoor courtyard, admin offices, and a large commons area. With this new facility, Summit will transition its current phase I high school building–built in 2019 at 6,600 square feet–into the school’s new middle school building and will add a pavilion for middle school lunch and assemblies. Finally, the expansion project includes a student-designed fitness center, which was funded through a student-led project and is nearing completion.
“By transitioning the middle school into our original high school building, we also open up classroom space for our lower grades. This expansion will enable us to improve our K-12 capacity, build upon our educational program, and welcome new families, all while remaining committed to small class sizes to support our students and teachers,” continues Pusch.
Locally-owned Sweetwater Builders managed the fitness center project and donated 100% of the builder fee. Following a formal RFP process, Summit hired South Carolina-based J. Davis Construction to build the new high school building. Since the spring, a group of educators and stakeholders have worked diligently to design an expansion plan that strengthens the K-12 program at Summit and achieves its enrollment and financial sustainability goals. The new high school building is slated to open for the 2024-25 school year.
Fundraising efforts for the expansion are led by the Summit Charter School Foundation, a 501(c)3 that raises private funding to support Summit Charter School, which receives significantly less funding than a traditional public school. The Foundation is volunteer-led by a board of directors that include invested community members, current and former parents, and school alumni. Sarah Jennings, chair of the Foundation, states:
“It is an exciting time at Summit. With the growth of our greater community comes growth within our school. Summit is so important to the quality of life we all get to enjoy here on the plateau and as a parent and community member, it is heartwarming to see so many individuals and businesses rally around our local children. As a Foundation, we are proud to be debt-free and hope to remain that way by garnering the additional support we need for the capital campaign.”
Joel Davis, president of J. Davis Construction said, “J. Davis Construction has been blessed to provide Commercial Construction services to customers in the Cashiers and Highlands area for many years. Our mission is to use our construction services to have a positive impact to all of those involved or benefited from the buildings we build. We can’t think of a better way to impact the community than to assist a school that is so passionate about growing the next generation. We are honored to be part of the team in seeing Summit Charter school reach their goals”.
To celebrate Summit’s growth, the Summit Charter School Foundation will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the fitness center with the Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday, August 18th at 9:00 AM, and a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new high school building on Friday, August 25th at 9:00 AM. The community is happily invited to each event.
About the Summit Charter School Foundation, Inc.
The Summit Charter School Foundation raises vital funds to support Summit Charter School, a tuition-free K-12 public charter school in the beautiful mountains of Cashiers, N.C.
Summit’s mission is to engage students in learning experiences that stimulate discovery, inspire excellence, and nurture a positive influence in an ever-changing world. The school’s primary goals are to graduate students who are academically prepared, engaged in the community, and strong in character. A picturesque mountain campus and state-of-the art facilities provide an ideal setting for teachers and stud;nts to embrace high expectations, build meaningful relationships, and practice the seven virtues that comprise the Summit Pledge: “Each day in my words and my deeds, I will do my best to live these seven virtues: Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Compassion, Self-Discipline, Perseverance, and Giving.”
For the 2023-24 school year, Summit will serve 311 students and 48 faculty and staff. The student population represents five counties in rural western North Carolina and is diverse: 51% low-income; 75% Caucasian, 21% Latino, 3% more than one race, 0.5% Native American, 0.5% Asian; 12% of students are enrolled in the Exceptional Children (EC) program; and 7% are English Language Learners (ELL).