Editorial: Pursue charter school for right reasons, not to save North Carroll building

Following County Commissioner turned Board of Education candidate Doug Howard’s meeting at the end of last month, in which he put forward the idea of bringing a charter school to continue using the North Carroll High School building in an educational capacity, we opined that a charter school was worth exploring, but not sure thing.

As we continued to report on the concept of a charter school, it certainly seems like there are more questions than answers at this point, and we can’t get the words of Board of Education President Bob Lord, who is also seeking re-election, out of our heads: “For an organization to take on the North Carroll property just solely to save it, I don’t think it’s a great idea.”


We have to agree. If preserving a brick-and-mortar building is the primary motivation to pursue a charter school, then it will be doomed to fail.

However, there are plenty of other reasons to pursue forming a charter school in Carroll County beyond saving a building — and if the former North Carroll High can be turned into usable space in the process, that is a bonus.

Dawn Nee, a Manchester attorney who filed an appeal to keep North Carroll from closing, proposed a few good ideas when we spoke to her about the charter school. In particular, she mentioned the concept of an arts school, or perhaps a school with a strong focus in agricultural education.

These are models that, we think, could work. A public charter school should offer its students something different from the traditional public schools in the system.

For example, neighboring Frederick County offers two Montessori public charter schools as well as what is known as the Frederick Classical Charter School, which offers “a classical education that emphasizes the liberal arts and sciences,” according to a 2013 article from, published when the school was opened.

In Laurel, there are three charter schools — elementary, middle and high — known as the Chesapeake Math & IT Academy, which is described on its website as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics school, with a focus on information technologies.

Again, we recognize we are still incredibly early in the process. Certainly, we believe there is a thirst in Carroll County for alternatives to the traditional public schools for parents who do not wish to home-school or pay for expensive private or parochial schools. A public charter school would provide that opportunity.

However, any group that wishes to start the application process and move forward with a public charter school should be doing so with creating new educational opportunities for Carroll County students front of mind — not preserving a building. If purchasing the North Carroll High building or leasing space there is an option that makes the most sense, from a facilities standpoint and an educational one — great! — if not, that’s OK, too.

This isn’t to say we think the county should sell or, worse, demolish North Carroll. We still think the property and the building could be a great asset for a number of operations, including a school. We would just hate to see any group spend their time going through a lengthy process to form a charter school if only to keep the building in use.