Providence Creek Academy charter school in Clayton broke ground Tuesday, May 27 on three new buildings adjacent to its current campus on West Duck Creek Road.

Nearly 700 students, staff and special guests—including U.S. Sen. Tom Carper—gathered in a field behind Providence Creek Academy last week to turn the page on the school’s next chapter.

Using shovels decorated by art students, Carper helped break ground for three new buildings that will soon house the kindergarten to eighth grade charter school on West Duck Creek Road in Clayton.

“Six years ago, we set out on a path to educate children, and it has brought us here today,” said Principal Audrey Erschen in her welcome address at the May 27 ceremony.

An elementary building, a middle school building, and a core building are planned for a 33-acre parcel of land, which the school purchased for $1.5 million from St. Joseph’s at Providence Creek, a venue for community service programs and activities. For the past six years, Providence Creek Academy has leased space in several buildings owned by St. Joseph’s.

Carper and members of his staff worked with both Providence Creek Academy and St. Joseph's to broker the agreement to allow both to fulfill their respective missions of quality education and community service.

Before the days of Providence Creek Academy, “The folks at St. Joseph’s at Providence Creek looked at these buildings and they saw opportunity,” Carper said.
Carper now looks at the students of Providence Creek Academy and sees that same potential.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” Carper said. “I don’t want this to be a so-so school. I want this to be a great school, the finest public school in Delaware.”

The three new buildings are scheduled to open in the fall of 2009, at which time the school will vacate the buildings it now leases from St. Joseph's. The buildings do not mean an expansion of Providence Creek Academy, but, rather, a move. PCA will remain a charter school for kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment must stay within 5 percent of 669 students, as per the school’s charter.

Builders plan to start immediately on the middle and elementary school buildings and break ground next month on the core building, which will house shared facilities including an auditorium and gymnasium. ICS, the same company behind the Smyrna Health and Wellness Center on Smyrna’s Main Street, has been hired for the project.
St. Joseph’s to expand services

Without the charter school leasing its buildings, St. Joseph’s at Providence Creek plans to expand its offerings to the community, said Executive Director Marc Ostroff.
College courses, recreation programs, and personal enrichment classes are some of the possible uses of the buildings, Ostroff said.

“One of the very glaring needs in the community is college and university education,” he said. “You have satellite campuses in all different places around the state and nothing here. We also expect to see a presence from recreation and youth programs. We expect a number of programs will be based here.”

Ostroff also plans to hire new staff, including administrative, security, and maintenance personnel, he said. Even with the additional salaries, Ostroff said he is confident St. Joseph’s will balance its budget without the $550,000 in annual rental income from Providence Creek Academy.