The final push: New Concord charter school located in mall to open after Labor Day 

  • Stephanie Alicea writes on the new white board she created for the seventh grade classroom at the Capital City Charter School. The school is located in the former Bon-Ton space in the Steeplegate Mall in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Stephanie Alicea pushes a bookcase into place while on a call as she gets ready for the opening of the charter school in the former Bon-Ton space in the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Stephanie Alicea loads the dumpster outside in the parking lot as she gets ready for the opening of the charter school in the former Bon-Ton space in the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephanie Alicea moves separated metal from the dumpster she is loading as she gets ready for the opening of the charter school in the former Bon-Ton space in the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephanie Alicea loads the dumpster outside in the parking lot as she gets ready for the opening of the charter school in the former Bon-Ton space in the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/24/2018 1:26:58 PM

Stephanie Alicea can see the finish line.

But before the head of the Capital City Charter School can cross it – and begin educating students in her new school – she’ll be moving a lot of tables, chairs and shelves out of the way.

“It’s exciting to see the old stuff getting out and moving so I can get the good stuff in,” Alicea said, loading a dumpster outside the Steeplegate Mall with old plastic shelving. “We’ve got a lot of hard work to do.”

Alicea has been working for the last six weeks to clear out the former Bon Ton’s men’s store so her new charter school will be ready to open there on Sept. 4. She and her team have been repurposing as much as they can from the department store, but some items are just in too rough shape to reuse or donate, she said.

Alicea said she has about 35 students committed to starting at Capital City, which is an alternative to public middle school based on service learning that is being offered to any child in the state. She said enrollment is continuing to grow – even last week, she got six more calls from interested parents.

This week will be the final push to get kids signed up and the space ready for them to arrive, Alicea said.

Some of the students that have signed up come from outside of Concord, including Henniker and Epsom, but most are from the Concord and Penacook area, Alicea said.

The Charter School will follow the traditional school model of learning science, math, history and English lessons, but in creative ways. An analogy Alicea likes to make involves a community garden: To plant a garden, children need to use math and science in measuring plot size and studying germination, and they can incorporate history lessons about farming and writing into the activity, too.

Alicea said she wants the school to be a part of the mall community, partnering with Basil Pizza for lunch on special occasions and hopefully Terrasini Bakery for snacks and coffee. Students will bring their own lunches to school every day.

Steeplegate’s Altitude Trampoline Park, the bouncy house and laser tag center, and HatBoxTheatre will also make great field trip options, Alicea said.

For recess, there will be a section of the school equipped with corn hole, large dice and other games for indoor play. Outside, a section of the mall’s parking lot will be roped off for warmer days.

So far, Alicea said she’s offered contracts to two teachers out of a pool of about 16 applicants. Alicea started the hiring process on Aug. 10 using Facebook and the job-connecting website ZipRecruiter, and within a week and a half, she received a flood of applicants.

“I put it up and I got immediate responses: like boom, boom, boom. We got matches, interest,” Alicea said. “We got some good people.”

One out of the two applicants offered contracts have accepted their positions so far. Scott Palmer, a math and science teacher who formerly taught at TEAMS charter school in Penacook, will be joining the staff, Alicea said. She said she will announce the other teacher when a contract is accepted.

Meanwhile, she has sent emails welcoming the families of her new pupils with school supply lists. She said parents have been dropping by periodically to see how progress on the school is going.

“They’re all so on board and excited,” she said. “It’s great.”

Part of the plan for last week was finding places that were willing to accept donations from the store. For example, a non-profit in Maine took a pile of mattresses from a storeroom. Other shelves and display cases were going to a recovery center in Boscawen, as well as a new cellphone repair shop in the Steeplegate Mall.

Giving away materials also help with the dumpster costs, which is priced by the ton, Alicea said.

“Whoever gets to us first gets them,” she said. “That’s the rule.”

Next week, when all of the excess store materials are moved out, the Capital City team will be moving furniture in.

Alicea said Granite State College and Tilton School have donated big tables – enough to seat each classroom – and chairs for kids.

“It’s like a little piece of history from everywhere,” Alicea said.

These final touches will bring together the full atmosphere of the school, which is meant to be about conversation and collaborative learning.

“We don’t necessarily want desks – that’s kind of the opposite of what I want,” Alicea said. “I want round tables, so the kids are learning from each other all of the time.”




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