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New, private school offers free education to Durham children

Posted May 14, 2009

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— Children in one of the Triangle’s poorest neighborhoods will get the chance to attend a new, private school in Durham thanks in large part to donations from a local church.

Union Independent School – a state-of-the-art, 49,000-square-foot facility at 116 Corporation St. – is scheduled to open on July 15.

The school plans to open with 75 students in kindergarten through second grade and operate on a year-round calendar. The school will add a new kindergarten class each year until it becomes a K-8 school.

Children who live in the 172-block area known as “Northeast-Central Durham” applied and were chosen by lottery to attend the school for free. May 1 was the lottery deadline, according to the school’s Web site. Acceptance letters were mailed on Monday.

“When kids walk through the door of this school, their life is going to change,” said project director Charles Stanback.

Union Baptist Church Pastor Kenneth Hammond New school offers free education to Durham kids

The idea to build the school sprang from the Durham Scholars program, a 14-year-old partnership between Union Baptist Church and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“The church has contributed in excess of $2 million already in terms of preps, plus the church is assuming the debt service on the building. So all told, the church will have about a $10 million investment,” said Pastor Kenneth Hammond, who says the church has more than 4,000 members.

Neither Hammond nor school officials would reveal how much money they still hope to raise.

The school plans to generate income through fees from companies that want access to its target population to do testing in fields like nutrition, physical activity and entrepreneurial education.

“In this neighborhood, we’ve got, as you can imagine, a gang problem and kids the age that will be here in school are prime candidates for gang culture. Except, when they’re in here, it’s hard to recruit them,” Stanback said.

Union Independent School

Mailing Address
904 North Roxboro St.
Durham, N.C. 27701

Physical Address
116 Corporation St.
Durham, N.C. 27701

Telephone: 919-682-5903
Fax: 919-682-6056
Web site: www.unionis.org
E-mail: info@unionis.org

Office Hours
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.


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  • Just the facts mam May 14, 2009

    Working Woman - Fair question. Many Democrats are against private charter schools where taxpayers money is put into private schools rather than public schools. As one recent example, the Democratic Congress and Obama pulled the money out of charter schools in D.C. recently as they want the money going to public schools and not private schools. One reason Democrats do not want private schools I believe is they are on the side of the Teachers Unions which are against private charter schools. I think public schools do not like the competition, and also the Democrats are on the side of big government and Unions and not necessarily what is best for the students. This school here sounds like will be privately funded, but as mentioned many Democrats are for public schools and not for private - you explain the reason for this to me...

  • mramorak May 14, 2009

    i couln't have said it better.put thats what i was thinking!

  • msudawg May 14, 2009

    Hangingtough: Why won't you qualify for a charter school? They are public schools you just have to apply. You may not get accepted on the first try but get your kids on a waiting list and something would eventually open up. Most charter schools have a lottery for new admissions. All of my children go to a charter school.

  • HanginTough May 14, 2009

    Yes, once again the middle class is left in the cold having to deal with political cesspool that is the public school system. I would love for my child to go to a private school or even a charter school but we dont "qualify" - and never will.

  • Conservative May 14, 2009

    ncwebguy - I hope you realize that applying for this school is optional. In other words if you don't want to send your kids, you don't have to. If others choose to, it is their right. Also, if the govt. is not putting a penny of tax money, the organization that is running the school has a right to specify the curriculum. If this school produces more success stories than the govt. run one size fits all indoctrination centers, kudos to the school. I wonder why as soon as liberals see the word "private" they get nervous!

  • Working Woman May 14, 2009

    jesmyopinion: I'm a Democrat and I think this school is a great idea. Why would this school's success be a political thing? Why does it matter what political affiliation you are to tell whether you're for or against projects like this? Just wondering.

  • Just the facts mam May 14, 2009

    Great! I do not understand why most Democrats are opposed to projects like this - I guess they believe that they are smarter than other people and would rather have other people dependent on them in the government. But I think this is great and I hope is very successful!! The public schools need some competition and I hope they get it!

  • MamaBearNC May 14, 2009

    I wonder who I write to remove the cap on the amount of public charter schools in NC. I am always on the waitings lists. I apply every year! This is a private school and it is great the church funded most of it for the poor. But for us middle class folks that can't afford to have to pay the 800/month tuition and fees and on top of that after school care for our kids to go to private school there aren't allot of options. Instead I have to be content with living in Raleigh and WCPSS busing my children to another town to go to school - yes a whole other town! Yes this is our base school. Ridiculous!

  • Sidekick May 14, 2009

    Will they actually have to pass anything or is this just another baby-sitting service? Is there any 'stimulus money' involved? Something smells.

  • ncwebguy May 14, 2009

    Since when is turning kids into lab rats sold to the highest bidder "good"?

    The story makes no mention of requirements other than being lucky enough to win the lottery. *That* sends a good message? Really? How "independent" will the school be from the church that has $10 million invested in it? In name only?

    There is *no* mention of parental involvement other than applying for the lottery. There is going to be a lot more involvement from the corporations who pay to play with the kids' nutrition, teaching, etc. than from parents. If public schools did that, the same people praising this school would be damning the Durham public school system for treating kids like experiments.

    The school seems more proud of how much it cost to build and how to raise donations vs. the quality of the education offered.