Neuse Charter prepares for first week in new building

09/01/2014 12:00 AM

09/05/2014 6:03 PM

On Monday, Sept. 8, Neuse Charter School’s high school and middle school students will christen a new and long-anticipated building.

This past week, teachers and staff were scurrying to organize classrooms and offices as new furnishings arrived.

On Wednesday, teachers and volunteer students helped moved supplies from mobile classrooms into the new building. Eighth-grade social studies teacher Bobbie Smale was particularly excited to have a window view from her new classroom.

Smale was also encouraged to see so many student volunteers helping with the move. “I think it speaks to the character of our students that they would take this time,” she said.

The new three-story building, brightly lit and energy efficient, will be quite a departure for both students and teachers, who had called mobile classrooms home.

The third floor houses a teachers’ lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows; the floor below has a similar study lounge for students. The building is the handiwork of Raleigh-based Design Development Architecture and Smithfield builder Stephenson General Contractors.

The building incorporates classrooms wired for technology, a learning lab, a commons area for webinars and group work, study pods for research projects and team meetings, and a patio for breaks and lunch, said Julie Jailall, the school’s executive director.

Jailall said the high school building would add to Neuse Charter’s rich legacy of meeting the expectations of students and their parents.

This past school year, Neuse Charter graduated its first senior class. Despite the late start to this school year, the school expects this year’s seniors to graduate around the same time as their peers in the traditional public schools.

Neuse Charter, with grades K-12, is Johnston County’s lone charter school. It opened eight years ago, and when the doors open on Sept. 8, the school will have a waiting list of more than 425 applicants.

Chris Johnson, the county’s economic-development director, serves on the board of Neuse Charter. He said charter schools give parents a choice.

“It’s providing something we didn’t have eight years ago,” he said.

From an economic-development standpoint, charters are attractive, Johnson said, because newcomers are familiar with the schools, which are growing in popularity across the country.

“We have kids from Wake, Wayne and other surrounding counties,” Johnson noted.

Neuse Charter, which made its first home in Selma, moved to Smithfield in 2011 with the purchase of 26 acres and an existing gym from Johnston Christian Academy, which had closed. Last year, the school added 12 more acres.

Charter schools generally receive about 72 cents of every dollar public schools receive, and they do not receive state or local funding for land or building needs. The school used Self-Help Credit Union and federal loan guarantees to finance the building costs.

“We rely on a lot of volunteers and very generous parents,” Johnson said.

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