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Granite State Arts Academy in Derry ready to open its doors

Union Leader Correspondent

August 25. 2014 10:48PM
From left, Director of Granite State Arts Academy Michelle Fox and Wendie Leweck, school founder and chair. Hunter McGee (HUNTER McGEE/Union Leader Correspondent)

DERRY — After months of planning, Granite State Arts Academy is ready to open its doors to students and their artistic vision.

Scheduled to open on Wednesday in Brookstone Park, the charter school will provide a standard curriculum of classes for students, along with a full slate of art classes.

Students will have a chance to express their creativity every day at the arts academy, said Wendie Leweck, chair and founder of the school.

They can hone their photography skills, take ballet or hip hop classes, or spend time burning a CD of their latest recording on state-of-the-art equipment, Leweck said.

Looking forward to opening day, Leweck said she has been impressed by the turnout of students and their parents to recent events over the summer, such as a ribbon cutting and barbecue.

“What I’ve seen is a community building right before my eyes of, not only the students, but the parents, families, and volunteers,” Leweck said. “There’s such an instant connection with these families because they all do have a commonality, and that is the love and desire to learn the arts.”

The charter school was approved by the Board of Education on Aug. 19, 2013. The arts-based school will serve grades 9-12 and offer core academics as well as studies in four areas of art: dance, music, theater, and visual arts. Students will also take standard classes such as math, English, and social studies.

The arts academy is located in a two-story building off Route 111 in Brookstone Park. Because it was a former office building, the doors in the facility had to be rehung so they would swing out instead of in to meet state code, Leweck said

Granite State Arts Academy, which has a capacity of 160 students, plans to open with about 65 students, Leweck said. Students will be coming from the Derry area, and from such other areas as Pelham, Manchester, Exeter and Hollis.“The first day, I’m sure, will be anything but typical,” Leweck said.

Wednesday will be an orientation day and the students will only attend school for half of the day. They will receive their schedules and meet with teachers to learn what’s expected of them, Leweck said.

“It’s kind of a practice of drop off and pickup and lunch and all of the things they’ve never done before because they are new,” said Leweck, promising that there will be plenty of confetti released to celebrate the opening.

Michelle Fox, director of the arts academy, is scheduled to address the students on Wednesday, as is Leweck.

During the school year, Fox said the arts academy will “follow the mission and the vision that was put together in order to get the charter.”

One of the goals in the first year, she said, will be to “prepare students for the 21st century with communication skills, collaboration, and critical and creative thinking.”

For weeks, Leweck and Fox have been working along with other staff members and volunteers to prepare the academy for opening day.

When asked recently how she felt on the verge of the school opening, Leweck said she wasn’t sure why but she felt surprisingly calm.

“I don’t really know why I feel calm, but I do I think I can only attribute it to the tremendous amount of work that all of our volunteers have put in,” she said. “We still have lots of little things to do, but we are ready.”

Arts Education Derry