Admissions » FAQs


What is a “charter” school?

The Expedition School (TES) is a FREE, PUBLIC charter school. This means it is authorized by the NC Department of Public Instruction to operate under an independent “charter” or plan for education.  The Expedition School’s Charter is to provide project-based learning with a STEM focus, social-emotional learning, as well as other unique elements.

While there are some charter schools that are operated by private companies, TES is a FREE PUBLIC charter school, operated by an independent nonprofit Board of Directors rather than the local school board. Public charters are still held accountable to the same standards of their district public school peers in order to continue operating, however. 

What makes The Expedition School (TES) special?

In the case of The Expedition School, our charter allows our school to employ its unique, research-based and successful combination of:

  • Project Based Learning in STEM that focuses on hands-on, relevant learning and engagement
  • Schoolwide social/emotional learning, such as our implementation of the Responsive Classroom curriculum and focus on relationship building between staff and students
  • A modified year-round schedule
  • Wednesday 1 PM dismissals when students can choose to attend extracurricular clubs and explore their own interests (school staff participates in professional development at this time)
  • Teacher Looping (in grades 1 - 2 and 3 - 4, 5-6 and 7-8), allowing students to stay with the same teacher for two years, strengthening relationships and mastery of content.
  • Standards Based Grading, so that teachers can track student progress and achievements and encourage a positive growth mindset rather than assign punitive letter grades
  • Attention to space and design; classrooms are located in the beautifully restored Eno River Mill, and specifically designed for student engagement, comfort, and community building
  • A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, ensuring all students and their families are welcome, safe, supported, and successful.  

 TES still follows the NC Standard Course of Study, is assessed and held accountable by the same End of Course State testing, and receives a grade by NC DPI’s School Report Cards (currently a grade “A”.)

How are charter schools funded?

The primary funding sources for charter schools, like traditional public schools, are local, state, and federal tax dollars. When you enroll your child in a charter school like TES, the per pupil funding in tax dollars designated to be used to educate your child,  follows your child to the charter school. In short, TES is a public school serving public students with public dollars for the public benefit. It is thus entirely FREE to attend.

Does The Expedition School (TES) require uniforms?

No, TES does not have school uniforms. In alignment with our school’s mission and values, we believe it is important for students to be comfortably dressed for active, project-based learning. In consideration of issues of equity, uniforms can be an extra expense for families, hinder individuality and self-expression, and also be problematic for children with sensory issues.  

Do you offer transportation?

TES does not currently offer busing. As a small charter school, we do not have access to district school buses or drivers, and given our student body comprising 6 or more counties, it is difficult to provide routes that can serve all students equally. TES is however committed to help ensure transportation is not a barrier to any perspective or enrolled family. Given the close community that our school is, we encourage and can help arrange carpooling. Please contact us for more information about coordinating carpooling to/from school.

What are my options for after school care and during intercession breaks?

There are numerous quality options throughout the area for afterschool, intercession and summer camps for TES students. The Orange County Sportsplex offers KidsPlex at The Expedition School, an afterschool program ON SITE at The Expedition School. There are additional child care providers who will pick up students at the school and transport them to their facility. Click here for more information.  

What is the school’s academic performance like?

Since 2017, TES has either MET or EXCEEDED growth each school year.  (NC School Report Cards). Additionally, the school has a NC School Report Card grade A (2019), the only school in Orange County with such a ranking in 2019. Equally important to our school’s high performance in academics, is our incredible school culture of respect, inclusion and kindness. In fact, the Expedition School has earned the distinction as a Kindness Certified School for its commitment to creating a culture of kindness. Read more about TES’s ongoing success here.

Do you have a cafeteria and offer lunches?

Students at TES either pack a lunch from home each day, or can have a healthy meal from a local restaurant delivered. (Check out My Hot Lunchbox to learn how to order.) TES does not have a cafeteria. Students enjoy a relaxed lunchtime in their classroom or elsewhere around campus. 

 Does The Expedition School offer Free and Reduced lunch?

Absolutely. Free or reduced-priced lunches are available for families who qualify. Please contact TES’s Student Services Coordinator ([email protected]) to inquire about the paperwork for eligibility or with any questions regarding how to apply. Confidential assistance is also available in completing the paperwork if needed.

Any family experiencing food insecurity, regardless of qualification for free and reduced lunch, is encouraged to reach out to our Student Services Coordinator so that we can help arrange assistance.

How can I apply/enter my child’s name in the lottery? What is required for the application? Do I have to apply each year?

As a tuition-FREE public charter school, any child who qualifies to attend a NC public school under the laws of NC is also eligible to be accepted into The Expedition School (TES), or any charter school in the state, regardless of your NC county of residence or school attendance zones. A student must be legally domiciled in NC at the time of application in order to apply and gain consideration in the lottery. To enter your child’s name, parents/guardians must submit the short application by the stated application deadline listed on the school's website.

The application for entry is very simple, and only requires basic information, such as a name, address, grade level of student, etc. Once you apply, your child will be entered into the randomized lottery. The lottery takes place in February.

Once admitted to the school, a student does not need to apply again and will progress through each grade at TES as at a traditional public school. Only new students, or new siblings, need to enter their names into the lottery.

What does it mean that seats are selected via “lottery?”

When there is more demand for seats at a charter school than there are slots available (which is the case at TES, with its waitlist of hundreds each year), charters use a randomized lottery to draw which students are admitted.

I see that TES has a “weighted lottery.” What does that mean?

In a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the TES Board of Directors voted to institute a weighted lottery at TES to help diversify our student body and ensure we are serving and reflecting our local community. After approval from the NC State Office of Charter Schools, TES’s “weighted” lottery uses an algorithm to increase (or “weight”) the odds of students from low income families for getting in. (It is important to note that North Carolina only allows for weighting applications based on income; race cannot be a determining factor.)

Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, 25% of open kindergarten seats at TES will be “weighted” for students from “economically disadvantaged” families. Students who are not selected in the weighted lottery draw then go into the general population lottery for a second chance for admittance. If not selected, weighted lottery applicants are added to the waitlist in the same manner as general lottery applicants.

What is my child’s likelihood of getting in via the lottery?

TES receives over 500 applications for 20-30 available spaces each year. While demand for spaces at TES far outweighs availability, we still strongly encourage you to apply. While available spaces may be few, it could easily be your family who is selected via the randomized lottery!

What happens if my student isn’t selected during the lottery?

 Students not selected in the randomized general weighted lottery drawing are placed on a waitlist. Students not selected in the weighted lottery drawing are placed into the general weighted lottery, and if not selected, then are added to the waitlist.

Since families are often considering multiple factors in making their choices, if you are in the top 30-40 on our waitlist (particularly for incoming Kindergarteners), it is possible you will still receive a spot. Waitlist movement changes throughout the spring and summer. As we get closer to the first day of school, the wait list can move rapidly as families make last minute changes. (It is not uncommon for a family on our waitlist to even be offered a seat a day or two before school starts!) Even though such a decision feels like a whirlwind in that moment, most families who take a last-minute seat do not regret it given the exceptional education received at TES.

I have 2 children. If one of them gets in via the lottery, will the other also automatically get in at the same time?

Not necessarily, but hopefully! Each family enters one application with all children listed. Once your name is drawn, both of your children (or all of your children, if you have more than 2) are pulled to be placed in the next spots available in each of their respective grades. While ideally there will be a space still open in each sibling’s grade level, it is possible that one grade may have a spot open and another grade may not. This means that one child could get a seat while the other goes on the waitlist. However, the best thing to do is apply and see what happens! Note that applications are per family, and not for each child. So, families with one child or families with four children have an equal change at admission.

What exactly is sibling preference and how does it work?

Once a child is a student at TES, their siblings receive “preference” the following year.  Sibling preference means that siblings are offered a seat (IF one is available) in their grade ahead of the lottery applicants. Read more about sibling preference here.

Can I apply for the grade I “think” my child should be in? (i.e., my child is very advanced and already knows the material in her current 2nd grade class. Can I apply for 4th grade entry? OR…My child is struggling & I do not think they are ready for 3rd grade. Can I apply for 2nd instead?)

No. It is imperative that families apply for the grade that follows the current grade their child is in.  Applying for the wrong grade will jeopardize your ability to receive a spot.

 My child/children got a seat! What now?

You will receive an e-mail in February informing you that either 1.) that your child has received a spot at TES, or 2.) that your child has been placed on the waitlist for TES, as well as their number on the waitlist. (Remember that siblings of current TES students will automatically receive a seat IF space is open in the necessary grade.) If your child receives a seat, you will have a window of time (typically within five days of receiving your acceptance e-mail) to officially enroll them as a student at TES by submitting the forms located here. Enrollment at TES is the same as enrollment at any traditional public school, requiring the same kinds of forms and documentation. There is NO tuition to attend TES; as a public school, it is FREE.

May I tour the school?

It is important that you get to know our school before you apply so that you can determine if it is a good fit for your family. Traditionally we offer tours both during the school day and in the evenings that are a great way to learn more about our educational philosophy, see our school community in action, get a sense of the location as it relates to your commute, and have all of your questions answered. For information about attending a tour of the school, see the available in-person tour dates listed on the Tour page of the website.

If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out - we are here to help! Contact us at [email protected]!