In 2001, Newark Charter School opened with 450 students housed in two nondescript modular buildings on Barksdale Road.
Now, the school stands ready to open its third permanent building, one that will house a high school and allow students to attend kindergarten through 12th grade at NCS.
It will make Newark Charter the second high school in Newark and the only school in the city to offer all grades.
“We’ve changed in a lot of ways, but in many ways, we’re the same as we were in the first year,” Director Greg Meece said, sitting in his office as construction crews put the finishing touches on the building at 200 McIntire Drive.
NCS’ 1,760 students will begin their school year on Thursday. This year, the junior/senior high school building will house seventh, eighth and ninth graders, and each year another grade will be added.
The high school will offer two pathways for students to choose: a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum or a Global Studies and Leadership academy.
“You’ll be in an engineering lab learning about CAD software or you’ll go into a global studies classroom and learn about why there are wars and communicate with students in other countries over Skype,” Meece said.
The school, housed in the former Lear Corporation factory that made car seats for Chrysler, also includes a media center, gymnasium, several science labs, athletic fields and something new to NCS students: a cafeteria. Students in elementary and middle school eat in their classrooms.
Lisa Ueltzhoffer, a former Newark High School teacher who most recently served as principal of McKean High School, has been named as principal of the high school. Each NCS building has its own principal, who reports to Meece.
The school’s first campus, located a half-mile down Elkton Road on Patriot Way, consists of two buildings: the middle school, built in 2003, and the elementary school, built in 2006. With seventh and eight graders moving to the new building, the elementary school will expand.
Meece said that as soon as NCS opened as a middle school in 2001, parents clamored for officials to add a high school. However, it made more sense to add an elementary school.
“First thing to do was complete the program,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to start in 5th grade.”
Once money became available, the school applied to open the high school, a move that drew strong criticism from some in the public who worried that the school would pull students and money away from traditional public schools. Charter schools are publically funded but have more independence than district schools.
However, Meece said, the school had the support of parents.
“We have a strong market for our school,” he said. “A lot of families in Newark like what we have to offer.”
Meece said last year’s eighth graders are excited to move to the new building, noting that he took them all on a tour earlier this year and allowed them to sign their names on the unfinished gym floor.
“They’ll forever be the foundation class,” he quipped.
For more on the opening of Newark Charter High School, pick up next week’s issue of the Newark Post.