New quarters for new school

Durham program housed at NCCU

Staff WriterNovember 29, 2005 

It's not that anyone has made them feel like they have outstayed their welcome.

In fact, it has been the exact opposite during the year and a half the fledgling Early College High School has borrowed a tiny corner of the School of Education building at N.C. Central University to house its program. Yet like any guest forced to shack up with a kindly acquaintance, the students and staff of the Durham Public Schools program appreciate the hospitality but are ready to move into their own space.

Next fall, the Early College High School will leave its cramped digs behind for the spacious -- and now empty -- Robinson science building in the heart of the NCCU campus.

"It's going to be great to have a space that we control independently," said Nicholas King, Early College principal.

The Early College opened at NCCU in the fall of 2004 with about 100 ninth-graders spread out into eight classrooms. Additional grades will be added each year until the school serves 400 ninth- through 12th-graders. Students take high school and university courses simultaneously, earning up to two years of college credit by graduation.

Housing a high school completely on a college campus was new to the Triangle, and the education building was always intended to be a temporary location.

It worked OK the first year, students say, but the new class of students this year has made the tiny school-within-a-school uncomfortably crowded.

The students jokingly call the classroom where they dine the "lockerteria" because that's where they eat and shove their books into lockers. Computer access has been hit or miss, with university students often occupying the labs and high school students often having to wait until after school to use laptops provided by the school system. Kids, arms weighed down with books, have to wade through packed doorways as students pass between classes.

"It's pretty much just making sure you're not stepping on anyone or hitting them," said sophomore Aria Halliday.

The Robinson building is one of three old science buildings left empty after a new science complex opened this year. It will need minor roof repairs, a fresh coat of paint and the installation of a bell system but is otherwise in good shape.

King and the students are excited about the coming move. In the 26,000-square-foot building, King will have space for a teachers' lounge, meaning his days will no longer be interrupted by teachers wandering into his office to make copies and sharpen pencils. The Robinson building will allow for a designated space for the newspaper and yearbook King hopes to launch soon. And he hopes having an actual building will help build up the PTA.

Sophomore Laura Tan said she is looking forward to taking science courses where students can participate in real labs. Sophomore Bryant Taborn is glad he will no longer have to vie for computer time with college students.

The students hope having a building of their own will make their high school experience feel more like, well, high school.

"We'll have more spaces for clubs and, hopefully, have a place to hold parties and dances," Aria said.

Bryant said he can't wait to be able to cut up a little in the halls with his friends, rolling his eyes at how students are always shushed and expected to act like grown-ups during the time between classes that students like to use to disperse of pent-up energy.

As for the lockerteria, that will be history. Though Aria pointed out that the food, trucked in from another high school, will still be just as bad.

Staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones can be reached at 956-2433 or nikole.hannahjones @newsobserver.com.

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