School Name: Newark Charter School
Type: Middle School
Location: Newark, Delaware
Newark, one of Delaware’s largest cities, was in need of an educational alternative for middle school students. There was no public middle school within a 10-mile radius of the Greater Newark area. In July 1999, a number of parents in the community came together and decided to start a local charter school that would offer their children an education combining scholarship, good citizenship and creativity. To get doors open by fall 2001, parents turned to GE Capital Modular Space (GECMS), a leading provider of modular and mobile space solutions, for a facility that would meet their immediate needs. “GE Capital Modular Space was very responsive to our inquiries,” said Duke Pierson, one of the school founders. “They built and placed the modules, assembled the buildings and handled interior work. Modular construction gave us the opportunity to get the school up and running when no other options were available.”
Today, two GECMS modular buildings, situated on almost seven acres, serve as the Newark Charter School. Besides housing 435 students between the fifth and seventh grades, the school offers a meeting space for community organizations. The facility also gives the school’s board of directors time to plan for and construct a larger, permanent building. From charter to construction Charter schools are independently operated public schools that are free from most regulations and constraints imposed at the state and local levels. Without these restrictions, charter schools tend to operate more efficiently and innovatively, having a greater ability to quickly respond to students’ needs. In exchange for this increased freedom and flexibility, charter schools are held accountable for achieving educational results.
In April 2000, the Newark parents obtained a charter to start a middle school in their community. Although they lacked a corporate or school management company sponsor, they were eligible for a federal grant to help with construction costs. Because the charter required the school be running by August 2001, the founders needed to find a location and building quickly or risk losing the school. “We tried to use a permanent facility, but it was difficult to fund and get support for conversion of an existing building due to zoning issues, affordability and potential credit risk,” said Pierson. “Modular construction didn’t require as much an outlay of work or modification. And it enabled us to quickly open a school to meet the charter’s deadlines.” After reviewing several bids from modular leasing companies, the parents chose GE Capital Modular Space (GECMS) to construct the school buildings. “We looked at several modular school buildings, including GE Capital Modular Space installations in Baltimore and Wilmington,” said Pierson. “Comparing facilities, physical structure and price, GE Capital Modular Space offered us the best pricing and terms.”
The $1.2 million project consisted of two factory-built buildings; each was approximately 68 x 142 ft. complex with nine to 10 classrooms, two offices, a teacher’s lounge, a reception area and restrooms. Together, the buildings offered 19,584 square feet. In 60 days, the brand-new structures were complete. GE Capital Modular Space installed the modules on the school’s temporary site in time for the charter’s August deadline. “Newark Charter School mirrors the floor plan of a typical school building with classrooms off a long hallway,” said Vince Alcarese, sales manager, Major Projects, GE Capital Modular Space. “Because of its speed and flexibility, modular construction is ideal for charter schools, especially since it is pre-designed to meet state and local zoning requirements. It also can be less expensive and time-consuming than conventional construction methods.” The modular route GE Capital Modular Space uses the same materials for its buildings as conventional construction companies do. The building process is the only difference between the two methods—modular structures are built off-site in a controlled manufacturing environment. Off-site modular fabrication and assembly can reduce the cost of construction and accelerate the project schedule via simultaneous site preparation. In addition, modular construction is versatile and can be easily expanded, reduced or relocated to accommodate changing needs. Traditional construction methods require that the structure be built on the site it will eventually inhabit.
“Modular construction is the logical option for charter schools since most have tight budgets and have to raise their own funds,” said Greg Meece, director, Newark Charter School. “The modules are working very well for us. They more than met our expectations.” Along with providing the buildings, GE Capital Modular Space installed the flooring, lighting and HVAC. Each classroom is approximately 23 x 30 ft. The teachers’ lounge serves as a versatile workroom and staff meeting area and is equipped with a lavatory. Newark Charter School has space for a staff of 19 full-time teachers, a school director/principal, two guidance counselors, a nurse, and three administrative assistants. White walls and tiles add to the brightness of the new buildings, making it easy for teachers and students to decorate classrooms.
The staff also appreciates the nine-foot ceilings, which allow for large windows and more natural lighting. Several rooms, including the nurse’s office, are carpeted. “The teachers are happy with the space we have,” said Meece. “Hanging student papers is easier with the gypsum wallboard, so that’s a big plus.” Newark Charter School also is fulfilling the community’s needs by providing a place for after-school activities such as music lessons and recitals, as well as evening meetings of community groups such as the Boy Scouts. “Everyone was excited about the school opening,” said Pierson. “We’ve already started the enrollment process for next year and plan to add a grade.”
More information on modular structures is available at www.modspace.com or by calling (800) 523-7918. GE Capital Modular Space, a GE Capital company, is one of the leading providers of temporary and permanent mobile and modular space solutions for construction, commercial, institutional, industrial, educational and healthcare customers throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. It offers a fleet of buildings available for immediate delivery from over 100 branch offices. Custom buildings, turnkey design, project management, installation services and financing solutions also are available.
GE Capital, with assets of more than US$370 billion, is a global, diversified financial services company grouped into six key operating segments comprised of 24 businesses. A wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric Company, GE Capital, based in Stamford, Connecticut, provides a variety of consumer services, such as credit cards and life and auto insurance; mid-market financing; specialized financing; specialty insurance; equipment management; and specialized services, to businesses and individuals in 47 countries around the world. GE is a diversified services, technology and manufacturing company with operations worldwide.