New MOT Charter facility built on 40 acres on Cedar Lane Road in Middletown.

A new high school in Middletown will open its doors to students later this month.

Faculty and staff have already moved in to the new MOT Charter High School located on Cedar Lane Road in Middletown.

The school’s first class of ninth and 10th graders will start classes on Aug. 19 at the $18 million facility, which features high ceilings, sunny classrooms, ergonomic desks, collaborative spaces, and the latest in technology.

There are already two Appoquinimink School District high schools within Middletown town limits – Middletown High School and Appoquinimink High School. A third, St. Georges Technical High School, is located north of Middletown.

MOT Charter High School officials said that a charter school is needed to give parents more options.

From start to finish

The Delaware Board of Education approved MOT Charter School’s request to add ninth through 12th grades in June 2013.

Construction of the 79,000 square foot high school on 40 acres began last September and was funded through grants and loans, according to MOT Charter High School Senior Administrator Elaine Elston.

Unlike traditional public school districts such as Appoquinimink, charter school construction projects receive limited public funding, said Linda J. Jennings, the head of school at MOT Charter School who oversees the K through 12th programs.

“We receive a small amount of money to maintain our facilities, but must find creative ways to build our schools without state assistance. Most of us are forced to use valuable program dollars that should be going to instruction and learning instead of paying our mortgages,” Jennings said.

The entering class of 10th graders will have 188 students who last year spent their ninth grade studying in a modular building at the MOT Charter School, off Levels Road.

The new class of ninth graders will also have 188 students and will be made up of a mix of students who attended MOT Charter School for their earlier years of education, and also students from 36 public middle schools in New Castle County and northern Kent County who chose not to enter a traditional public school.

As students advance from a grade level to the next, the new high school will graduate its first class of seniors in 2017.

The tuition-free school still has 40 open seats and it’s accepting more students for the ninth and 10th grade programs, Elston said. Interested parents can go on the school’s website to fill out an application.

Usually students who attend a charter school are chosen through a lottery after their parents apply online for enrollment, but Elston said that any student who applies now will automatically be accepted since the school wants to fill all the open seats that are still available.

‘School of choice’

Parents who want their children to attend a charter school do so because they’re interested in the programs that the school offers, Elston explained.

MOT Charter is a ‘school of choice,’ which according to the Delaware Department of Education, means that it was created to give parents greater freedom about the kind of education they want their kids to receive. Charters often use different teaching and learning methods, and offer programs that typical public schools may lack or not specialize in.

“People are coming to our charter school for the right reasons. We are about high, rigorous academics,” she said. “Our program is student-centered in that whenever possible and as often as possible, the students drive the learning.”

Elston said that she doesn’t think having a third high school within town limits will create any turf problems with Appoquinimink schools, but that instead it will benefit families since student choice already is limited in New Castle County.

“I’m the proud parent of four grown children and they all went to different high schools in Kent County, and not because of where we lived, but because each of my children needed something different and I don’t think you could ever have enough choice for where your child gets an education,” she said.

(SUBHED) The academics

The high school will offer two ‘academies’ or programs in two separate building wings. One track will focus in the arts and will allow students to major in dance, vocal/instrumental music, theater, and digital arts. The second track will be for students interested in the sciences such as computer programming, biotechnology, and engineering.

A total of 25 teachers will educate the student body for the two entering classes. More educators will be added as all four high school grades are filled.

Sports

The new school has a designated field for baseball and softball, plus three multi-purpose athletic fields for sports such as lacrosse, field hockey, golf, soccer, and cross country, and a designated spot for tennis courts and basketball. It will not have a football program.

According to Elston, a football program requires a lot of resources that the ‘Home of the Mighty Mustangs’ can’t afford.

“Football is very costly and it takes a large student population to fill teams like that and it’s also a high liability,” she explained. “And, as a charter school that is underfunded, we are always measuring our resources and our programs.”

Not having a facility or resources for some sports won’t stop Tracey Flowers from letting her daughter, Kaitlyn, enter the 10th grade.

“While school sports are always a big consideration, there's a growing number of local businesses and leagues that can fill those needs,” Flowers said.

The facility also does not have a designated place to serve as a library nor books, or regular lockers.

All students will be issued laptops and the materials have all been digitized so there is no need for them to carry around books or go to a library to find them, Elston said.

With this, Elston admits that not everyone will find the school suitable for them, but that those who do find the school as a great place for learning will have their expectations met, if not exceeded.

“I just can’t say enough about the opportunity for students and family. I would have been lost if I didn’t have the choice for children to go to high school and this is a great choice for a lot of kids. It also won’t be for everybody.”

Parents like Jennifer Ulizio whose son, Nicholas, has been attending MOT Charter School since kindergarten and now will be part of the new class of ninth graders, said that the school is the right place for her son.

“We are so excited! It is a beautiful, state-of-the-art building with every space so thoughtfully planned for learning,” she said. “We love the family feel of the school and the academic challenge that it has provided him.”

The new high school will hold an open house on Monday, Aug. 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. when families will be able to visit the new facilities and ask questions about the school’s programs.