Parents hope to convert old mill into new high school

Parents hope to convert old mill into new high school

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by BOBBY SISK / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Bobby: BSisk@WCNC.com

WCNC.com

Posted on October 29, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 29 at 7:59 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If some passionate parents have their way, a mill building that first opened 113 years ago will become Charlotte's newest high school. 

The Episcopal High School of Charlotte is in the planning stages right now, but organizers hope two years from now to open the school's doors.

"This building has so much history. It has character," said Nanci Salzer, a parent working on the project. "When we walked in the first day we thought, 'It's a school.' It was made to be a school."

Salzer and Cameron Holtz are part of a group working to make the school a reality.

"It started, maybe selfishly, as more of a personal need. And the more we have become involved in this and as the project has developed, it has become a true passion," said Salzer. 

Two years of work so far, many of the volunteers have children at nearby Trinity Episcopal School, a kindergarten through eighth-grade campus in uptown's First Ward. But right now, there is no Episcopal High School option.

"There is space for a small, rigorous high school where faith and service really engage our students in the life of the city," said Holtz.

She envisions enrollment between 400 and 500 students.

There are grand plans for the 180,000-square-foot mill building near Plaza Midwood, where much of it is now used for storage. Classroom will line the walls with a light-filled hallway in the center.

A front room, closest to Hawthorne Lane, will serve as the library. Old wooden beams and floors will be reclaimed and bricked in windows will be restored to let in natural light.

"I feel so much life here. I'm so excited to fill it with students and get them learning," said Holtz as she and Salzer gave us a tour through the building. 

A private ninth through 12th grade school, the facility will also be open to students whose parents can't afford private school tuition. 

Organizers hope to eventually have 20 percent of the enrollment on scholarship and are also partnering with the Breakthrough Collaborative initiative to help low-income students excel during a summer service program.

"We also want people to know this is not a school for Episcopal kids.  This is a school that is open to people of all faiths and of no faith," added Holtz.

It's been four decades since a major standalone private high school was launched in this city. 

"Charlotte needs an Episcopal high school," Holtz said. 

This one will start with a hard working past, thanks to the mill workers who once walked the halls. 

"The adaptive reuse of this building is good on so many levels. We think it is good for Charlotte as a whole. We know it is good for preservation," she said.

The group is finishing up a feasibility study right now and will then set a budget. 

Organizers have been taking their message to various neighborhood groups. On Monday, Nov. 1, they'll hold a meeting for interested parents at Christ Episcopal Church at 1412 Providence Road in Charlotte. It runs from 7 to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit www.CharlotteEpiscopalHS.org.

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