When First State Military Academy opens its doors for the first time for students in fall 2015, the charter school will do so in Clayton. Late last month FSMA board members went to settlement on the old St. Joseph's School on Duck Creek Road in Clayton.
The school received approval from the Delaware Board of Education in June.
FSMA board Chairman Scott Kidner said the board purchased the St. Joe's school and the 35 acres the property sits on.
"It's an exciting time," Kidner said. "We're very excited and really looking forward to bringing a JROTC program to Kent County. With that said, there's a lot of stuff to do."
The FSMA board wanted to bring the academy to the Smyrna-Clayton area because of the access students throughout the state would have to the school. Kidner believes having the school in northern Kent County will give students in Kent and Sussex counties, as well as the lower portion of New Castle County, the chance to attend a military academy.
The school will blend a traditional JRTOC culture with project-based learning. The model for the school is based off that of the Delaware Military Academy in New Castle County.
As for why the board chose the St. Joe's property in general, Kidner said the school just looks and feels right.
"It just gives us a permanent, greater sense of place," Kidner said. "We want to create a campus vision, to create a mini-campus much like Providence Creek Academy where students go from building to building."
Providence Creek Academy charter school is located back behind the St. Joe's property.
Currently Kidner said the FSMA board is in the renovations process. They need to upgrade the security system. Some of the classes need to be bigger. The biggest issue is the HVAC system; Kidner is unsure if it needs to be repaired or replaced.
The board will also start working on the curriculum. Kidner said the board needs to formally go over the plans with Town of Clayton officials.
Clayton officials are happy to see the military academy come to Clayton. Town Foreman Jeff Hurlock has previously said he's happy to see someone take over the property because he was concerned it would turn into a dilapidated building. Plus he likes the idea of having a military academy available for local students.
The first year the school is open, nine and tenth graders will be admitted with a grade added in each of the next two years. Like other charter schools, Kidner said all students can apply but the approved applications will be picked based on a lottery system.
While some local public schools have voiced opposition of the military academy, Kidner doesn't believe FSMA will equate to a loss in students in public school JROTC programs because not all students want a full-time, uniformed cadets JRTOC experience.
Overall, with a location set in stone Kidner is ready to hit the ground running.
"It's been a long road and it has not been something we'd be able to do without our dedicated board. We have a great group of folks on our team who have been a great help."