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Newark Center for Creative Learning purchased a neighboring property over the summer to expand its campus capacity.

After Newark Center for Creative Learning added a kindergarten class, officials realized they needed additional space to accommodate more students. They restricted enrollment for a few years until a solution appeared — a ‘for sale’ sign in the yard next door.

The private K-8 school has been at its current campus on Phillips Avenue for 47 years. NCCL Administrative Coordinator Lauren Evans explained that, short of moving to an entirely new location, the options for expansion were limited.

According to Evans, the school had a great relationship with its former neighbor, Veronica Stolfi. She attended many school events, and students trick-or-treated at her house. Stolfi died a few years ago, and her family put her four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,825-square-foot house up for sale this summer.

Evans said she received a number of messages from parents and other members of the school community in the days after it hit the market.

“We have been interested in purchasing that property for many years. It just hasn’t ever been an option,” she said. “We noticed the ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard, and we just had to act on that.”

The school bought the property at the end of July for approximately $281,000, according to property records.

Evans explained that the school is more interested in the property’s large, open backyard than the house itself. It sits on a shady third of an acre directly north of the school’s campus. NCCL has set up two tents in the backyard to use as outdoor classrooms in preparation for bringing students back to campus safely amid COVID-19. However, the school plans to use the outdoor classrooms long after the pandemic subsides.

The house itself will be the headquarters of the school’s administrative operations for the next year, a temporary relocation that frees up office space in the main building for isolation rooms, in which symptomatic students can quarantine safely.

NCCL was in the middle of discussions to identify the best long-term uses of the building itself, which were stalled by preparations for reopening at the start of the school year.

“Things were put on pause during the pandemic,” Evans said. “It wasn’t the most important thing going on, but I imagine we’ll get back to those conversations in the near future.”

The school has no immediate plans for expanding further into the neighborhood, but will pursue an effort to increase the availability of parking. Evans hopes this will reduce the number of cars that park on the street during school-wide events in the future.

She said that while she hasn’t heard feedback from the neighborhood, the school community has been excited about the purchase.

“It’s been only positive comments that we’ve received from our community,” she said. “They’re all really happy that we have this property, especially this year.”

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