The charter proposals for the Village and Orange schools took many months to write with public meetings and a string of committees involving over 40 people. The proposals were submitted in October 1996.
In contrast the Woods proposal was written in a matter of days using an outline drafted in meetings led by Roger Gerber. The submission deadline was met by hand carrying the documents to the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh. Although the proposal was no weaker than the first two it was rejected mainly on doubts raised concerning FREE's ability to open two K-8 schools and a high school in its first year.
The proposal was resubmitted in 1997, was approved and the school opened in 1998 in Cole Park Plaza a mixed commercial development on 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro. Several revisions were made to the charter with the last one more than a year after the school had opened. Note that the proposal consisted of only 36 pages compared the 400+ page proposals required in some states.
The school needed a change of use permit from the Chatham County Commissioners. This turned out to be one of those rare cases of local government bending over backwards to help! FREE got "Fast Track" and much more.
Within five years the Woods school achieved the academic growth its founders had hoped for. While the Woods school got little recognition in the media or in government circles, the enrollment grew beyond what could be accommodated at the original location.
The school moved to its current location in August 2008 with an enrollment of >450 and a waiting list of >500. The new Woods building is yet another example of a public school built with private money. Thanks to local control this school more than holds its own with the traditional public schools in Chapel Hill that get 15% more funding per student.