Sussex Prep Academy preps for building campaign
Free charter school aims to open near Georgetown in 2013
Sussex Preparatory School is preparing to build Sussex County’s first charter high school, with a little help from neighbors.
The State of Delaware will finance the 450-student charter school, like any other public school. However, the academy must raise funds for the initial construction, which will cost around $10 million.
The idea of Sussex Preparatory Academy began as a way to expand Sussex County’s educational options, with an emphasis on college readiness.
“I’ve always though that we needed a private school in Sussex County,” campaign chairperson Joe Schell explained, since interested families were busing children to Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin, Md., or boarding them at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown. “There are no real in-county options other than Delmarva Christian [High School],” where students pay tuition to attend take part in the religious-based curriculum.
A free charter school was determined to be the best option, since Sussex County does not have the population to support another pay-to-attend school.
“We need an alternative that is less cost, or no cost, that is a charter school, but has a very strong college focus … for parents and students,” Schell said.
The Web site for the proto-school, at http://sussexprep.org, targets Sussex Prep to “students seeking a high caliber, well-rounded, accelerated academic program in a small school environment, in preparation for applying to leading universities.”
The new school would be built adjacent to the existing Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences, located near Department of Motor Vehicles in Georgetown. Students who attend grades six to eight at SAAS will get first option to Sussex Prep. Additional slots will be filled through an applicant lottery.
Sussex Academy is a highly-rated middle school, topping test scores for reading, math, social studies and science, said Mike Rawl of Horizon Philanthropic Services, which is managing the fundraising.
“So the kids are really prepared when they get out of there. They don’t have a place to go to continue that,” said Rawl.
“Our purpose is not to in any way denigrate the education they get at public school,” said Schell. However, he said, “Too few kids are going to college. Today’s job market is requiring college education.”
According to Schell, less than 30 percent of Sussex County graduates attend a four-year school, and fewer will complete a four-year program.
“That is a trend that has to be reversed,” Schell said. “We’re looking for 100 percent admission and success in a four-year college,” he said of the school’s graduates. “We want kids who want to go to college, who want to work hard.”
The goal is to begin educating ninth-graders in the autumn of 2013, in temporary classrooms. Construction would begin in spring of 2013 and finish in time for ninth- and 10th-graders to use the new building in 2014.
Sussex Prep’s capital campaign officially began April 19, when the Delaware Department of Education approved the school plan. Having raised $1.4 million of the needed $10 million, Schell said the organizers have done “extremely well. We’re not the least bit worried.”
They hope to finish fundraising by 2015, he said, to minimize the amount of borrowed funds.
Schell will present the new school to interested people, businesses and foundations at a reception Thursday, Sept. 20. Those who attend the meeting will be able to learn more about Sussex County educational statistics, meet teachers and speak with the high-school development committee. The event is by invitation only, but those who have a special interest in the school are welcome to call Mike Rawl at (302) 644-0107 to discuss the event.