Buckhead’s newest school is taking shape.
The Atlanta Classical Academy, a charter school slated to open in August, announced it will locate at the Northside Drive campus of the Heiskell School once the private Christian school closes its doors this summer.
“It’s an incredibly well-located facility that is currently a school, has been a school, so we’re certain it will function as a school. We’re thrilled to be there,” said Matthew Kirby, chairman of the school’s board of directors.
Kirby said officials will lease the facility from the Heiskell family. He declined to disclose the cost of the lease.
Atlanta Classical Academy will be a charter school, meaning it will be governed independently by a board of directors. Charter schools typically receive this autonomy from the school system in exchange for increased accountability.
Kirby explained that as a charter school, Atlanta Classical Academy’s funding structure will be different from a traditional public school.
“Charter schools are required to fund their facilities’ expenses themselves,” Kirby said. “Either they raise the dollars from private sources or it comes from their operating budget. In our case, we’re working hard to minimize capital improvements to get the school opened.”
Kirby said as an existing school, very little work will need to be done to the Heiskell School building to get it ready for the opening of the academy in August.
“We’ll be funding the cost of the lease through the operating budget,” Kirby said. “Fortunately, the Heiskell option allows us to do that.”
Though enrollment in the new school was open to students throughout Atlanta Public Schools, Kirby said school officials wanted the school to be located in the North Atlanta High School attendance area. Finding a suitable building in Buckhead for a new school was no easy task, he said.
“It was very challenging,” Kirby said. “This is an incredibly desirable part of our city, and it’s a very real challenge to find a facility that will serve 450 students.”
In late February, about 800 families entered the new school’s enrollment lottery. Kirby said 450 students were awarded a spot at the K-8 school. There are currently about 1,100 students on the waiting list. Enrollment should be finalized later this month, he said.
Scott Harty has two children who will be attending the school and one on the waiting list.
He said his wife currently home-schools two of their children, using the classical education model.
“I think the classical component of the school was really intriguing to us,” Harty said. “We were in DeKalb County and moved into the school district for the schools. Public education was something we were headed towards, but Atlanta Classical Academy was what attracted us initially. We were glad to get in.”
Kirby said the board of directors has hired Dr. Terrence O. Moore as principal of the school and Col. Stephen P. Lambert as assistant principal.
Moore was the founding principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools, a K-12 charter school in Colorado, which Kirby said the Atlanta Classical Academy is modeled after.
“He’s been advising charter schools like us across the country,” Kirby said. “We really felt that we had hit a grand slam and attracted who we think is the No. 1 candidate in the country to run this kind of school. It’s a big win for Atlanta.”
According to his biography on the Atlanta Classical Academy website, Moore wrote a book called “The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core.”
Common Core is the name of a national set of standards that has sparked political controversy since being adopted by states around the country, including Georgia.
Kirby said as a charter school, Atlanta Classical Academy will still be subject to the Common Core performance standards.
“We are technically subject to those standards. But I think our approach will be quite different, and I think one of the major points of differentiation will be the curriculum we use to adhere to those standards to the extent that’s possible,” Kirby said. “The charter school arrangement allows us a great deal of flexibility in the way we select our teachers.”
Harty, who lives in Buckhead, said he’s glad that the classical education model, more common in private schools, will be available at a public school.
“There’s a lot of excitement among those parents about the school,” Harty said. “The fact that you’re offering a classical model of education to the public is just fantastic. I hope there are other opportunities to expand that.”