Charter school celebrates its growth
Quality Education Academy celebrated the opening of its new high school building last Thursday with a slate of special events, including a spirited parade.
Hundreds of QEA students marched along Carver School Road from the Carl Russell Sr. Recreation Center to Lansing Drive, where the new addition to the charter school stands. The Carver High School Band joined QEA’s band along the route, pumping up the throngs of QEA students, staff and faculty who lined sidewalks along the route. QEA CEO Simon Johnson, the grand marshall, waved and smiled at the onlookers as he was chauffeured at the head of the procession.
“We wanted to celebrate this event,” said Johnson. “This is a big thing for us. Charter schools don’t get any facility money from the state or anybody, so when we’re able to get the support we need from the community and from people who believe in what we’re doing, it’s a big thing to celebrate.”
Johnson said raising the more than $3 million to construct the building wasn’t easy in the current economy. The school held fundraisers, accepted donations – both big and small – and secured financing from Newbridge Bank.
“Everybody did what they could to make this happen,” he said.
QEA became one of the state’s first charter schools in 1997. In its lean years, some classes were held at Carver Road Church of Christ, which is adjacent to QEA’s main building, which houses its K-5 elementary school. A second building for middle schoolers was subsequently added. QEA Chief Academic Officer Tamara Turner said the campus needed to grow further to accommodate the needs of the school’s more than 430 students. Teachers had to share classrooms; students ate meals in classrooms; weekly assemblies were held in the hallway, Turner said.
“We used every square inch of the building, including the hallway and resource room last year,” she said.
Adjacent to the middle school, the high school building, which opened in August when students returned to school from summer break, has classrooms and meeting spaces galore. There is also a large gym for the school’s nationally-acclaimed basketball team. The Pharaohs played their first game in the gym on Nov. 1, with a crowd of hundreds cheering them to victory.
The high school building’s auditorium, the site of QEA’s recent Legacy Banquet, seats more than 800 and is a huge step-up from the school’s old “gymatorium” and a boon for QEA’s new theater program, Turner said.
“To go from one classroom in the church to three buildings on two campuses, is wonderful,” said Turner. “The children love it.”
Senior Imani Miller, head of the Student Leadership Team and a player on QEA’s Fighting Pharaohs basketball team, said the new facility has made a good school even better.
“It’s a really great building,” Miller said of the new digs where he and the other QEA high school students spend their day. “It’s a fun environment to be in, a real learning environment.”
Miller is only in his second year at QEA, but he says the school has helped him excel in many regards, including academically. Miller has a 3.8 GPA.
After the parade, students were treated to cotton candy, popcorn and a performance by Walkertown High School Marching Band. The celebration continued last Thursday evening, when QEA students displayed their talents on the stage in the new auditorium.