The Daily Southerner
When North East Carolina Prep School (NECP) begins its second semester on Monday, Jan. 7, students will be on the school’s new campus — at the site of the former Mary Frances Center. To allow students and parents, as well as the community, to become more familiar with the new facility, an open house will be held from 1 until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5.
“It’s a beautiful campus, so we want to invite everyone out so they can see it,” said Taro Knight, NECP’s director of communications/ community outreach. The school will open its doors to students for the first day of the school’s second semester the following Monday.
The 52-acre property off Howard Avenue Extension features two buildings recently renovated by Bouma Construction. One building will house students in kindergarten and first grade, while the other will house second through eighth-grade students. Construction on a new two-story building to house middle and high school students is projected to begin in February.
The complete project is estimated at $12 million.
“We don’t have to worry about having space as we grow,” Knight said. Under the leadership of executive director John Westberg, Edgecombe County’s only charter school plans to add another grade each year, adding ninth grade next year. The ultimate enrollment goal is 2,200 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
NECP’s original state allotment was for 380 students in its first year. The school currently has an enrollment of 403 students. The school has an allotment for 863 students for the 2013-2014 school year. If the numbers exceed 863 at the end of open enrollment on March 31, the school will have a lottery to determine which additional students will be able to attend.
Drop-off and pick-up of students was a challenge in NECP’s first week at its temporary Davis Street facility. Knight predicts the new facility’s two-lane drive and separate dismissal times for kindergarten and first grade (3 p.m.) and middle school (3:15 p.m.) will “help out a lot” with traffic flow.
Knight said the entire NECP organization is grateful to St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Ministry for the use of its Davis Street property for the first semester at the school, but the new property will offer much more room – additional office space for administrators, places for parents to meet with teachers, and a conference room for the parent teacher organization to have its board meetings. “It has a more modern feel than where we were,” Knight said. “The technology will be there. Everything will be wireless.”
While the buildings will be modern, the school’s location just outside the limits of the Town of Tarboro will provide more access to nature.
“We’re going to use everything that we have to promote learning,” Knight said. He added that the duck pond on the property would give students a “good opportunity to learn about ecosystems and about how animals survive in their environment.”
“A gem in the rough” is the phrase that Mark Skousen used to describe the charter school’s property at a groundbreaking ceremony in September. Skousen is a representative from HighMark School Development, the company that is financing NECP’s property acquisition and $12 million renovation/construction project.
“High Mark is investing in this school because we truly believe it’s going to change the landscape of education in this region,” said Patrick Beausoleil, also a High Mark representative, at the groundbreaking.
The North Carolina Board of Education approved the opening of NECP, along with eight other charter schools statewide, in March. The charter applications came after the North Carolina General Assembly’s passage of Senate Bill 8, which lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.