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Fletcher School expanding

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After 20 years in rented church space, The Fletcher School for students with learning disabilities and attention difficulties is raising $12 million to create its own campus.

The school, founded in 1982 by parents who saw a lack of options for their children in local schools, already has raised $4 million and purchased 13 acres off Sardis Road in Southeast Charlotte.

It aims to raise $2 million more by the end of the year and begin construction early next year of a new central administration building.

Starting in the fall of 2003, students would attend classes in modular classrooms, attached to the new building, that eventually would be replaced by new classroom wings the school plans to build after raising yet another $6 million starting in 2004.

“We really cannot expand any more where we are,” says Margaret Sigmon, head of school.

Fletcher, which expects to enroll 175 students this fall in second through 11th grade, currently leases space from Providence Baptist Church on Randolph Road near its new campus.

The school leased space at the church for its first two years before moving to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Queens Road, where it rented space for nine years before returning to Providence in 1993.

With the new campus it is planning, Fletcher will have room for 250 students, up from 73 when Sigmon joined the school eight years ago.

The school, with a waiting list for grade three through six, will add grade 11 this fall and, in the 2003-04 school year, a kindergarten and grade one and 12.

With only six students per teacher, the school needs more classrooms that are smaller than the temporary rooms it now shares with youth, evening and Sunday programs at Providence Baptist.

It also needs classrooms that can be organized in clusters designed to better serve its students and eliminate distractions from outside stimuli, Sigmon says.

Fletcher enrolls students with average or above-average intelligence, with the potential to learn, who don’t have major emotional or behavioral problems, and whose learning difficulties stem from difficulties in processing language, Sigmon says.

They stay at the school for two to three years, on average, before moving to “mainstream” schools.

The capital campaign also is raising endowment funds to support operations and scholarships for students who otherwise could not attend the school.

Campaign funds also will help create the Rankin Institute for Learning Disabilities to provide training, information and other services involving learning disabilities for parents, teachers and professionals.

In addition to paying for the new campus, the campaign is expected to help boost ongoing fundraising efforts at the school, which has seen its annual fund grow to $150,000 for the year ended June 30 from $25,000 five years ago.

“The impact of the campaign,” says Chris Boone, director of development, “is going to be a much broader base of donors and community awareness.”

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