In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s going to be a charter school in the Steeplegate Mall starting this September. Monitor reporter Leah Willingham covered this story in greater detail in July, and when we saw the story we thought it was definitely interesting – and a little bizarre – that the mall was going to be home to a school this year. That’s why we tracked down Stephanie Alicea, the woman launching and running Capital City Charter School, to ask her a few questions about it.
Answers have been trimmed for length. To see the Q&A in its entirety, go to theconcordinsider.com.
What kind of experience/background do you have in the education field?
I have been teaching since 1999, middle and high school, public and private schools!
How did you come up with the idea to open a charter school in a mall?
I always wanted to start something for “kids” even as a kid called “Tomorrow’s Child,” but in the last three years the idea of a charter school formed during a class I took at New England College at the beginning of my doctoral journey. When the idea actually formed, I thought of the old Circuit City first, but then a friend (local auctioneer) told me Bon-Ton was going out of business and go for the space! It has a sprinkler system, ample means of egress, bathrooms and parking – all specifics that are difficult to find in Concord. So why not?!?!
Have you ever heard of any other charter school opening in a mall before?
I have not heard of any other school in a mall here in N.H. I believe there are a good amount in Florida. Charter schools often have to be creative finding space and often end up in industrial parks or strip malls. Many malls are now empty, but this is one way to repurpose and shape the community of the malls across America!
How many students are currently signed up to attend this fall? How many staffers do you have (teachers, administrators, others)?
We currently have 30 students, and I am excited about each one. One student, our very first, had faith enough in our school to sign on before we even had a lease, or definitive space, teachers, etc. It was just he and I and the Founding Board. He finally got to see the space Thursday, and I thought I was going to burst with happiness! We expect the numbers will increase right before and shortly after the start of school! Our staff consists of four people – Head of School, Assistant Head of School/Student Development, a full-time educator and half-time educator, and we are interviewing applicants for two staff positions.
Do you plan to do anything fun and/or novel within the mall, since you’ll be there every day? Any plans to walk the kids through the mall or visit any stores or anything like that?
I would really like to be a part of the mall community. We already are going to partner with Basil Pizza for lunch and hopefully Terrasini Bakery for snacks, coffee, etc. With parental and management approval, we would like to be a part of and help Basil Pizza while learning a craft. We need to make sure we know who our students are and what interests they have! We would love to have an “Old Fashioned Bargain Days” type event inside in February when it’s cold and people still want to be out. Also, I would love to have Recycled Percussion come hold an event in our amphitheatre for fun and fundraising possibilities (I have yet to reach out to them) – hint hint, Ryan!
The possibilities are endless. We have the Altitude Trampoline Park, the bouncy house and HatBoxTheatre to take close and FUN field trips to. I would love to see a gym in with us, some more farm-to-table food options, etc. Parents may not love this, but the candy store True Confections is an option for a treat once in a while. I envision we will get to know our neighbors and walk through to say hello or deliver treats, art, etc. a few times a month! Many may not know charter schools receive half, if not less than existing public schools, so we will need community support with time and monetarily to grow our activities and allow for our students to continue to be able to enjoy outside-of-the-box activities and options!
Will there be any kind of physical education at the charter school? Will there be sports?
Most students have an existing place on their home teams, and will be able to continue that until we grow to be able to have club and organized sports with the ability to compete and travel to places! We have to be creative about our PE and have it in a closed-off section of the parking lot (think of St. John’s Regional School in Concord).
Will students be able to go to the mall’s food court for lunch or snacks? Further, will there be an actual student cafeteria inside the former Bon Ton spot? Will there be a kitchen for preparing school lunches every day?
Our students will bring lunches with them each day and we will all eat as a “family,” but as I stated earlier, Basil Pizza has been on board from day one to create a lunch menu that will fit our students’ budgets and nutritional needs. We have an area for our students to all eat together (of course care will be taken with allergies, etc.), we will also be able to travel down to the food court to add some hustle, bustle and positive vibes and noise to the mall!