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New charter school prepares to open



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The new charter school already had more than 350 pupils enrolled a week ago.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The old Stambaugh School at 2420 Donald Ave. is getting a new life.

It's been reborn as Stambaugh Charter Academy, thanks to a $4.5 million renovation that makes the interior of the 90-year-old building look new.

The charter school is part of the National Heritage Academies charter school operation based in Grand Rapids, Mich.

It's the 10th National Heritage school to open in Ohio. The charter school company has 30,000 pupils enrolled in 51 schools in five states.

The goal of the renovation was to preserve the building's historic qualities while giving it an overall face-lift, said Principal Charles Fazekas, as he led a tour of the 60,000-square-foot structure where teachers were busy stocking and preparing classrooms this week.

"The result is a safe, functional learning environment for our staff, students and neighborhood to feel proud of," he said.

The renovation work included installation of a new elevator and making the three-story building accessible to individuals who are physically handicapped.

Every classroom has two pupil computers and one teacher computer, and there's a 30-station computer lab in the media center. All classrooms (except for some labs) and all hallways are carpeted.

Kindergarten to fifth grade

The school is taking registrations for kindergarten through fifth grade this year but will then add one grade level each year through the eighth grade.

Classes start Tuesday and initial capacity for K-5 is 444 children. Fazekas said he expects to reach that goal by the end of the school year, noting that the school had more than 350 registered as of a week ago with more coming in daily.

The eventual enrollment goal is at least 700 pupils.

Stambaugh Charter Academy isn't targeting any specific pupil demographic, Fazekas said.

As a public charter school, it is open to everyone, he said.

Under Ohio charter school law, state subsidy money follows the pupils, and Stambaugh Charter Academy will draw its revenues from state funds.

No bus transportation

Unlike some charter schools in Youngstown, Stambaugh Charter Academy won't rely on the Youngstown city schools to provide transportation for its pupils.

The school's proposed 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. school day didn't fit into Youngstown's transportation schedule, Fazekas said.

Direct parental involvement will be part of the charter school's focus, and parents will be responsible for getting their children to school, which gets parents used to coming to school every day, too, he said.

There are now more than 15 charter schools operating in the Youngstown-Warren area, but Fazekas said National Heritage Academies isn't concerned about that.

"We're not competing with anybody but ourselves," he said. The goal is to make this the best school for children, he added.

The school will offer a strong academic program with an emphasis on moral virtues and parental involvement, Fazekas said.

The school has a special "parents room" that will be available for meetings, and a parents organization will be given the opportunity to decorate it.

Teaching staff

The teaching staff has a variety of experience levels and all had to go to National Heritage headquarters in Michigan for a week of training.

They also spent three days at the Holiday Inn in Boardman undergoing "Capturing Kids' Hearts" training offered by The Flippen Group of College Station, Texas. That's the same training Youngstown city schools is providing for all of its 1,500 employees.

The school will have a "steel band" and a chorus for fourth- and fifth-graders. The pupils will play makeshift instruments such as garbage cans and pots and pans to make their music, Fazekas said, adding that the school will have winter and spring shows for both band and chorus performances.

"We stress a safe environment," he said. "Developing minds and developing values equals a productive citizen."

Enrollment applications can be picked up at the school or are available online at www.heritageacademies.com.

gwin@vindy.com




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