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Windham charter school gears up for first year

Union Leader Correspondent

June 19. 2018 10:54PM

WINDHAM — Windham Academy has settled on a location in town and is gearing up for its first school year to start Sept. 4.

Board of Trustee member Chris Baker said the new charter school, which was approved by the state in December 2017, will be located at 1 Industrial Drive, Windham.

The school will occupy the first floor of the facility, using a total of six classrooms in the first year for grades K-3. It will add a grade each subsequent year to eventually provide for grades K-8.

The location selection process over the past several months included a review of locations in Windham, Salem and Hudson.

“We didn’t want to end up in a location in our first year that we would have to end up moving from,” Baker said.

The board then narrowed it down to two locations: the final location and a building at Hudson Park Drive in Hudson.

Baker said the Hudson building was a great facility, but the board felt strongly about being located in Windham.

The two-story building is 26,000 square feet.

The school received a variance for the Industrial Drive site from the Zoning Board of Adjustment a couple months ago, Baker said. Board officials are currently in talks with local fire and building inspectors as well as an architect.

A letter of intent was signed with the property owner and a lease is expected to be signed in the next couple of days.

Baker hopes to begin construction on the first floor shortly after, sometime within the next two weeks. He estimates it will take six to eight weeks to complete.

The school will occupy only the first floor in the first two years. After that, Baker said the school will build out the second floor in a phased approach in the third, fourth and fifth years.

Construction will be financed by a fundraising campaign; some assistance from the property owner and some of a $223,000 federal grant, which can go toward specific items such as sprinklers and other safety elements.

Windham Academy, which focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, was conceived of five years ago in response to a population boom in Windham schools and a growing desire among Windham families for more school choices.

“We wanted to be able to provide choice for them,” Baker said.

The board also hopes to get kids and girls especially — who are under-represented in STEM fields — interested in STEM at an earlier age.

There are currently five formal trustees but two more are expected to be added later this month.

So far, they’ve received 130 applications for enrollment and expect to seat 110 to 120 students in the first year.

The lottery for kindergarten is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Windham Town Hall.

There will be three classrooms dedicated to kindergarten, and grades 1-3 will have one classroom each.

The application period has officially ended but additional applications will be added to a waiting list on a first-come, first-served basis.

Melinda Labo, currently an interventionist at Hudson Memorial School, has been named school director and the board has hired six teachers so far, Baker said. Several parents have also volunteered to chair various committees.

Baker said the school will likely host a ceremonial flag-raising ceremony with a donated American flag sometime in July, and that a ribbon cutting ceremony will likely take place in late August.

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