After series of delays, SABA announces school location for 23-24


PITTSBORO — From boys to kings.

That’s how School of the Arts for Boys Academy Founder Valencia Toomer wants her students to grow during their time at her school. When the boys of her school graduate, she wants them to be self-respecting, and well-respected in their communities.

SABA, the new all-boys free public charter school in Pittsboro, is slated to open for the 2023-2024 school year for students in 3rd through 6th grade. Toomer said the school is at about 70% enrollment of its 116-student capacity. She expects the school will fill by the time the first day rolls around in August.

Last week, SABA announced it officially had a location for its new school: 69 Robyns Nest Lane in Pittsboro. The 1.9-acre facility will serve as the new campus for SABA after a series of administrative and Covid-19-related delays caused the opening date to be pushed back by a year. One of those delays was a struggle to find an adequate facility. 

“This is a memorable day for SABA,” Toomer said in a statement on Thursday. “We have secured a fabulous learning center and are ready to begin serving our families.”

SABA administration and staff will begin occupying the new space on July 1, with the first day of school scheduled for Aug. 14.

Toomer said while she and the SABA Board of Directors have been working behind the scenes to prepare for the school year, the announcement of the facility is the first major public update for the school in several months.

SABA Board Chairperson Dr. Allyson Alston said she views the school’s acquisition of the property as the final piece in the ready-to-open process. 

“We love the history of the building,” she said in a statement. “Robyn’s Nest has served the area families and children as a daycare for over two decades. In many respects, SABA is a continuation and extension of that servant approach.” 

SABA was approved by the state to operate as a public charter school February 2021, after submitting a justification letter to the state in January 2021 to open as a single-sex charter school. The school will be the only all-boys public charter school in the state, and was formed with the goal of using the arts and culturally responsive teaching to close the achievement gap and empower Black and brown boys.

The school uses a weighted lottery for admission — meaning students with various education disadvantages are given extra weight, or consideration, for acceptance. There are no fees to attend, and Toomer said the school will reserve 60% of its slots for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. In comparison to other Chatham charter schools, Willow Oak Montessori reserves 40% of the available spots in a grade level after other priorities are met for economically disadvantaged students; Woods Charter School reserves 25% of its available slots after accounting for sibling and faculty applicants, the News + Record previously reported.

All boys can attend SABA, but the school will be specifically structured to serve boys of color by exposing students to rich and diverse culturally responsive learning opportunities, Toomer said. The emphasis on the arts is meant to help address the achievement gap — any significant and persistent disparity in education performance — consistently found between Black and white students across the country.

This attention to diversity, cultivation of leadership and self-expression for boys is why Toomer believes many families have remained loyal to SABA even through the logistical delays. She said as soon as the announcement of the location went public, she received a flurry of phone calls asking about enrollment. 

“I’m most proud of the fact that even in this delayed year, we still had 50 families who remained committed to SABA,” Toomer said. “They were determined that no matter where we were, that they had to be part of it.”

In the research presented to the N.C. State Board of Education to open SABA, the founders cited researcher Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences. The theory is essentially the idea that a one-size-fits-all approach to education will leave some students behind. Toomer says SABA plans utilize Multiple Intelligences to provide an educational experience to students.

“Many parents have told me that their boys have potential in academics, in the arts or in athletics, but those talents aren’t being nurtured in a traditional public school setting,” Toomer said. 

Toomer said if the model of SABA proves successful in the near future, the long-term vision of the Board of Directors is to develop SAGA, an all-girls education option with the same mission. 

SABA plans to add new grades incrementally, with plans to ultimately be a K-12 school. This means anyone who enrolls at SABA will be able to graduate from high school at SABA. 

SABA is still accepting applications for the 2023-24 school year, and hiring staff for its inaugural year. Applications and enrollment information are available at Open positions and staffing information is available at 

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at 

SABA, Robyns Nest, charter schools, education, school choice, Valencia Toomer