What is a Charter School?

A charter school in North Carolina is a tuition-free public school that is independent from the local district school board. Each charter school is governed by an independent board and must follow a charter that is approved by the state board of education. Charter schools are allowed more freedom to be innovative with curriculum and methods, but they are still held accountable by the state. In some ways, they are monitored more closely by the state and must meet certain academic and fiscal standards or they can be closed.

Who can enroll in Excelsior, and when?

Each charter school in North Carolina is open to any student that lives in the state. Excelsior Classical Academy CFA is a public school that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, creed, or gender.

Excelsior Classical Academy CFA started with grades K-4 for the 2015-2016 school year. We will eventually grow to be a K-12 school by adding a grade each year.

Open enrollment for Excelsior starts at the beginning of January and ends at the end of February. The school’s lottery is held in early March. New applications received after the lottery deadline are placed at the end of the wait-list in the order received.

Is Excelsior’s student body diverse?

Excelsior’s Founding Board and Director have had the desire from the beginning to make sure anyone who wants to attend Excelsior has the opportunity, and to ensure that the school represents the diversity of the Durham area. We provide buses, free and reduced-price lunch, and assistance with uniforms to remove impediments to enrollment. We have intentionally worked to have a diverse Board, staff, and student population.

What is Core Knowledge?

Creating educational excellence and equity demands a strong foundation of knowledge for all children and a coherent plan for teaching what every child needs to know. Excelsior Classical Academy CFA will use the Core Knowledge Sequence in kindergarten through eighth grade. The Core Knowledge Sequence is a content-rich, sequential curriculum that provides students with the background knowledge they need to comprehend what they read and to learn new material.

For more information about how the Core Knowledge Sequence promotes academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, visit http://www.coreknowledge.org/sequence 

Is Core Knowledge the same as the Common Core State Standards?

No, they are not the same, but they are compatible. As explained on the Core Knowledge website, “It is important to note that the terms ‘standards’ and ‘curriculum’ are often—and erroneously—used as synonyms for one another. Standards define what children should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. A curriculum, like the Core Knowledge Sequence, describes what children need to learn to meet those standards.” By faithful and rigorous implementation of the Core Knowledge Sequence, Excelsior Classical Academy CFA will meet and exceed the Common Core State Standards.

What is a Classical Curriculum?

Classical education is rooted in the best of time-honored educational practices. The traditional liberal arts are Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music. Today a classical curriculum is based on the first three liberal arts, which together are called the Trivium. Students are taught the grammar, or basic knowledge, in each subject. Young students readily learn rhymes, stories, language, vocabulary, arithmetic, and facts. As knowledge grows, students want to know not just “what” but “why.” They learn logic and critical thinking skills through reading ideas and arguments of others and by discussing and practicing. Mature students learn rhetoric to express their ideas eloquently and to persuade others. Throughout their study of the Trivium, students are trained in virtues and core values, such as citizenship, cooperation, courage, fairness, honesty, integrity, perseverance, respect, and responsibility.

For more information about Classical Curriculum, read Dorothy Sayers’ essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, at www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html 

Does a Year-round Calendar mean that students attend school more days?

No. Excelsior Classical Academy CFA’s calendar is still 185 days. They are just distributed a little differently. Excelsior’s calendar is a modified year-round calendar. Students start school a bit earlier than at traditional schools and have a fall break, a winter break, and a spring break, one to three weeks long. This ensures there is less “brain drain” over the summer, prevents students and teachers from getting burned out over long stretches of school, and allows for enrichment and remediation activities during breaks.

What are Excelsior’s school hours?

The school day starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. Students may be dropped off as early as 7:55 a.m. and must be picked up by 4:00 p.m.

What is a Kindergartner’s day like?

Kindergartners generally have a morning meeting, a domain lesson, a read-aloud, a skills lesson, a half hour of Spanish, a half hour of recess, a Special class, fun centers time, literacy centers time, journal time, and lunch in the classroom. For the first ten or twelve weeks, Kindergartners have a rest time in the afternoon.

What Special Classes does Excelsior offer?

Excelsior students in K-5 have about a half hour of Spanish daily. Students in 6-8 have Latin, as part of our classical curriculum. Students in K-8 have a rotation of five Specials classes, Art, Dance, Drama, Music, and PE. In Grades 9-12, students will have PE twice weekly and will have arts electives.They will be required to take at least three years of a language.

Will Excelsior provide transportation?

Excelsior Classical Academy CFA has four bus routes. Please click here and scroll to Transportation for more information.

Will Excelsior have before- and after-school care?

We currently have before- and after-school care. Before-school care starts at 7 am, and after-school care ends at 6 pm. Please click here for more information. We also have bus stops at various daycare locations. Please see the Student Life page for information on bus stops at before- and after-school care locations.

Will Excelsior have an athletic program?

We have started a team club program with fifth and sixth graders. As we grow to have a full middle school, we will have actual competitive teams. We hope to have baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, and volleyball, at least. What sports we add first will depend on interest.

Will Excelsior provide free and reduced-price lunch?

Excelsior Classical Academy CFA has a contract with a caterer to provide free lunch for those who qualify for either free or reduced-price lunch. Students who do not qualify and staff may also purchase lunches from our caterer. Please click here for more information.

Is Excelsior run by a CMO or EMO?

No. Excelsior Classical Academy CFA is run by a local Board, not by a Charter Management Organization or an Education Management Organization. Excelsior is affiliated with TeamCFA, which is a non-profit, national network of charter schools dedicated to the mission of student achievement, academic excellence, measurable results, and bringing school choice to more students and their families. TeamCFA does not manage the school, nor profit from it.

Please see the TeamCFA FAQs below. To learn more about TeamCFA, visit teamcfa.org/about_us


Who is TeamCFA?

TeamCFA is a growing national network of open-enrollment, public charter schools built on the values of hard work, good citizenship, and teamwork. Schools in the TeamCFA network gain access to start-up funding, grants, training, services, the Core Knowledge curriculum, and, in some cases, the necessary facilities. Our ultimate goal is to graduate thoughtful, articulate youth who are prepared to become productive, accountable, engaged citizens.

What does TeamCFA stand for?

The acronym “TEAM” stands for Together Each Achieves More. In the spirit of teamwork, we have found that the success of the student takes the active participation, communication, and commitment of the teacher, student, and parent working collaboratively. “CFA” stands for Challenge Foundation Academy.

Who is the Challenge Foundation?

The Challenge Foundation is a private family charitable trust founded in 1988. The Foundation’s support of over 187 charters schools through more than $20M in grants brought about the development of a model school concept and launched the TeamCFA network of high quality charter schools who provide every student with a first-class education regardless of zip code.

How does a school join the TeamCFA network?

There are currently two ways to gain access to our network: start-up and conversion. Through the expertise gained in supporting charter schools throughout the years, we have put together a school model based on best practices that were identified in the areas of academics, business, educational technology, and governance.

Do schools pay to be part of TeamCFA?

No. TeamCFA is a philanthropic support organization and does not collect fees from its network schools. TeamCFA partners with passionate, committed educators, leaders, and community groups who are able to demonstrate support of the CFA model and establish local need for underserved students. TeamCFA offers start-up costs that may include the initial financing for facilities with the vision that a successful CFA will become self-sustaining in 5–7 years.

What is required for a conversion?

Existing charter schools who share our vision of achievement, excellence, and measurable results can inquire about converting to a CFA. TeamCFA schools gain access to our network of support and benefit from finding a partner in education. Contact your nearest Regional Director for further information.

How do students enroll in a TeamCFA school?

TeamCFA public charter schools are free and follow the federal guidelines for open enrollment. If schools receive more applications than there are seats, a lottery system, as outlined by the state, is implemented. Remaining students are placed on a waitlist. Additionally, TeamCFA schools do not discriminate based on disability, race, color, gender, national origin, religion, or ancestry.

How do schools benefit from TeamCFA affiliation?

Schools in our network gain access to a range of support services that may include, but are not limited to; professional development, curriculum mapping and implementation support, assessment tools, educational technology tools, and attendance at the annual TeamCFA educational conference. Most of all they gain access to a network of professional educators with whom they can share best practices to increase student learning.