The school will add fourth, fifth and sixth grades over the next three years.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Melissa Mudryk pulls the lid off a blue plastic storage bin. Inside are a couple-dozen deflated balls.
"I've had these for years but no place to put them," Mudryk says about the brightly colored, brand-spanking-new balls.
"Now, we can blow them up and use them."
Mudryk is the physical education teacher at Youngstown Community School, housed in Millcreek Children's Center preschool on the city's South Side.
For three years, the school's hallways have been Mudryk's storage room and office; she's conducted gym classes in each classroom.
"I've been kind of a nomad," she said.
What's planned: That changes Monday, when the school opens a new $4 million building that includes an actual gym in the basement.
Those deflated balls used to play kickball are about to be inflated.
"I'm pretty happy about it," Mudryk said.
Mudryk and a handful of other smiling teachers moved into the new school Thursday, unpacking books, organizing desks and hanging classroom decorations.
Students arrive Monday, fresh off a weeklong spring break. "The kids will be excited," said Kerri Gries, first-grade teacher.
YCS opened in 1998 with 40 kindergarten pupils in the preschool building on Essex Street. Under the direction of Sister Jerome Corcoran, who started the preschool in 1976, YCS was one of the first charter schools in Ohio.
The school has since added first, second and third grades and now has 192 pupils.
But room was running out. So, Sister Jerome launched a fund-raising drive to build a new school adjacent to the preschool. The school borrowed $4 million and has raised more than $2 million in private funds so far, Sister Jerome said.
More grades: Fourth, fifth and sixth grades will be added over the next three school years, boosting enrollment to 336. Kindergarten and first grade will go back into the preschool building, and grades two through six will be in the new building.
"I could never have imagined this," Denise DeBartolo York, chief executive of the DeBartolo Corp. and a major contributor to the school, said while touring the new building Thursday. It was always Sister Jerome's dream, she said.
In addition to 10 classrooms and a gym, the school features a cafeteria (children used to eat in their classrooms), a music room (music classes used to be conducted in the hallway), a library (books used to be kept in each classroom) and a teacher's lounge (teachers used to eat at a folding table in the hallway).
Oh, there's also the new school bell. In the other building, the principal walked through the hallways ringing a hand bell to change classes.
"We finally have our own school, our own space," first-grade teacher Denise Claussell said. "It's like a real school."