Building a foundation

— New Found­a­tions high school­ers are fi­nally in a build­ing of their own, on Rhawn Street, across the street from the ele­ment­ary school.

A par­ent and chil­dren leave New Found­a­tions Charter School after tour­ing the newly con­struc­ted fa­cil­it­ies on Rhawn Street in Holmes­burg. (Brad Lar­ris­on)

After go­ing to classes in a dif­fer­ent build­ing each year of their high school ca­reers, mem­bers of the ju­ni­or class at New Found­a­tions Charter High School are happy to fi­nally settle in­to a per­man­ent home.

As fresh­men, the stu­dents took classes in the ele­ment­ary school build­ing.

As sopho­mores, they ma­tric­u­lated in ex­tra space at Frank­lin Towne Charter School, hav­ing to climb up and down stairs every day.

For the first four months of their ju­ni­or year, they stud­ied at the re­cently closed Our Lady of Ransom Ele­ment­ary School build­ing.

Fi­nally, the New Found­a­tions high school­ers are in a build­ing of their own, loc­ated at 4850 Rhawn St., across the street from the ele­ment­ary school.

The fin­ish­ing touches still are be­ing put on the new three-story build­ing. When com­pleted, it will fea­ture tech­no­logy-equipped classrooms, a two-story lib­rary/me­dia cen­ter, cafet­er­ia, caf&ea­cute; lounge, fit­ness space, gym, sci­ence and com­puter labs and a col­lege/ca­reer re­source cen­ter.

Karlie Ethridge said the loc­a­tion will al­low plenty of room for ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies and the op­por­tun­ity for the high school and ele­ment­ary school stu­dents to in­ter­act.

“I’m glad we’re here,” said Karlie, a Na­tion­al Hon­or So­ci­ety mem­ber and “Ask Karlie” colum­nist for the Bull­dog Bark school news­pa­per. “I like it here. I’m glad we have a fi­nal place. Everything is new. It’s a real high school.”

Karlie and the rest of the fresh­men, sopho­mores and ju­ni­ors moved from Our Lady of Ransom to the Rhawn Street loc­a­tion over the Christ­mas hol­i­days.

New Found­a­tions opened the high school on Jan. 7, but waited to hold a form­al grand open­ing on Feb. 7.

The build­ing pro­cess in­cluded de­moli­tion and renov­a­tions, along with new con­struc­tion.

The ground was once home to Eureka Met­al & Glass. Karlie’s dad, Kev­in, once worked there.

Ju­ni­ors Perry Mu­lu­bah and Jon Hoff­man, both mem­bers of the Na­tion­al Hon­or So­ci­ety, were show­ing off the school’s new com­puter lab.

“It’s great. We fi­nally have a build­ing,” Perry said. “I like the staff, I like the school. Now, we’ll have more re­sources.”

Jon said there was an ad­just­ment after the move from Frank­lin Towne to Our Lady of Ransom. As for the new place, he be­lieves the open space makes for a bet­ter learn­ing en­vir­on­ment.

“It was worth it,” he said of the wait. “The teach­ers are good. I love the cur­riculum here. It’s new and state of the art. It’s got that fresh­ness to it. And we’ll be the first gradu­at­ing class.”

Sheryl Perzel, wife of former state House Speak­er John Perzel, foun­ded the ele­ment­ary school in 2000.

For al­most two years, classes were held at John­son Me­mori­al Meth­od­ist Church in May­fair and at the old Ox­ford Circle Jew­ish Com­munity Cen­ter.

In April 2002, stu­dents moved in­to the present site at Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue and Rhawn Street, in an old Su­per Fresh su­per­mar­ket.

The high school opened in 2010.

At present, there are 681 pu­pils in the ele­ment­ary school and 390 stu­dents in the high school.

By 2015, New Found­a­tions will serve about 1,500 stu­dents in the two build­ings.

Ad­min­is­trat­ors point to stand­ard­ized test scores to show their mod­el is work­ing.

On the 2012 Pennsylvania Sys­tem of State As­sess­ment test, 84.6 per­cent of stu­dents scored pro­fi­cient or ad­vanced in math. The fig­ure was 76.9 per­cent for read­ing. Statewide, the num­bers were 80.0 per­cent and 74.1 per­cent, re­spect­ively. City­wide, the fig­ures were 50.0 per­cent and 45.0 per­cent, re­spect­ively.

New Found­a­tions has made Ad­equate Yearly Pro­gress sev­en of the last eight years. Last year in Phil­adelphia, just 13 per­cent of tra­di­tion­al pub­lic schools and 29 per­cent of charter schools met that re­quire­ment.

Cut­ting the rib­bon at the grand open­ing cel­eb­ra­tion were CEO Paul St­adel­ber­ger, high school prin­cip­al Bill Schilling, state Sen. Mike Stack, board pres­id­ent Dave Lam­bie and board mem­bers.

St­adel­ber­ger thanked Sheryl Perzel and the edu­ca­tion­al vis­ion­ar­ies who were there from the start — Jerry San­tilli, Barb Bra­man and Sta­cey Cruise.

In all, the pro­ject cost $12 mil­lion.

St­adel­ber­ger cred­ited Bustleton Ser­vices Inc. for pre­vent­ing wa­ter dam­age dur­ing Hur­ricane Sandy and com­plet­ing the job in less than nine months, a time­frame he de­scribed as “un­heard of.”

At New Found­a­tions, the motto is “A Caring Com­munity of Learners.” The stu­dents show re­spect for each oth­er and the staff, St­adel­ber­ger said.

“The stu­dents truly live that mis­sion each and every day,” he said.

An­oth­er big part of the school’s suc­cess, in St­adel­ber­ger’s view, is prin­cip­al Schilling, who some­times re­ports to work be­fore 5 a.m.

“He’s here un­til the last car is out of this park­ing lot,” he said.

Schilling, though, poin­ted to St­adel­ber­ger as the driv­ing force in ap­prov­ing any­thing that be­ne­fits the stu­dents.

The prin­cip­al joked that, if he made an ar­gu­ment that adding 17 ele­phants to the staff would im­prove the edu­ca­tion­al ex­per­i­ence, St­adel­ber­ger would sign off on the pro­pos­al.

Schilling de­scribed the high school stu­dents and staff as the “New Found­a­tions Nomads.”

“We’ve been in four build­ings in three years,” he noted.

Schilling said the New Found­a­tions brass prom­ised to cre­ate the best fa­cil­ity and the best edu­ca­tion in the state.

“I think we’ve de­livered,” he said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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