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Despite delays, Wilmington’s all-girls charter school still on track for September 2019 opening
WILMINGTON — The towering trusses at 4300 Sunglow Drive, the future home of the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW), are far cry from the tiny school at 606 S. College Road. That’s where GLOW has been since opening in 2016 to its first class of 100 girls.
With 300 students and counting, that 11,800-square-feet space is starting to feel like a closet.
“Cozy’s a good word for it — ‘sardine’ comes to mind,” President Todd Godbey said.
But nearly 7 months into construction, GLOW’s new 60,000-square-foot campus is starting to look like a school. And despite Hurricane Florence striking in September, the campus is still on track to open next fall to 400 students — including its first high-school class.
That’s thanks to a phased opening plan that will see different grades move in as buildings are completed. Godbey credited the foresight of project manager Mike Travaglia for getting separate occupancy permits for the campus’ buildings.
“We had the typical delay after the hurricane, which was just people taking care of their own houses,” Travaglia said. “As far as damage to the site, we lost some soil. Nothing too bad.”
Spread across five buildings, GLOW’s new campus is designed with higher education in mind.
As North Carolina’s first single-gender charter school, part of GLOW’s mission is to get 100 percent of its girls accepted into college. Godbey noted that roughly 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a proxy for low-income status.
So to get girls in the college mindset, GLOW’s layout will see them crossing a quad-like courtyard to get to elective classes. There’s a media center, a maker’s space that will house 3D printers, and a culinary center for one of the most popular electives at GLOW — cooking.
A GLOW hallmark has been the annual visits from celebrity chefs for fundraisers, thanks to the connections of GLOW founder and former Food Network President Judy Girard. In February, Robert Irvine will visit Wilmington for the fourth installment of the fundraising tradition.
“The kids have fallen so in love with the cooking piece,” Godbey said.
Students will also put their fingerprints on the new campus by naming one of the buildings, with the name-selection process already underway.
Making up losses
Florence impacted GLOW in other ways, most notably by displacing some students.
Godbey said roughly 50 GLOW students lost all of their clothing during the storm, including their purple and khaki school uniforms. Several others lost their homes, including a handful that have had to move permanently to other parts of the state.
Another looming concern for GLOW — as it is for all local schools — is what state education leaders plan to do about end-of-year testing. Those tests are a major component of the state’s School Performance Grades; last year GLOW, like three other area charters, scored a “D” for its grade.
“We easily missed 2 months of instruction in a meaningful way, and that will be impactful to our test scores if the state doesn’t mitigate that,” Godbey said.
Whatever happens, Godbey said GLOW is expected to keep its Sept. 5 grand opening date. Open enrollment, which started Dec. 1, has already seen 43 new GLOW-hopefuls apply.
Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.