Construction work begins on new Choices Academy

Students who attend Choices Academy alternative school will one day have their own building, instead of the modular classrooms at West Salisbury Elementary, where instruction has been for years.

The new building will eventually open on Calloway Street. By December’s holiday break, new portabales should be in place there, while officials work toward financing a new structure.

Site work on the lot began earlier this month, “in preparation for the relocation of two large modular classroom buildings to the site to house Choices Academy until a permanent building is constructed on the site,” said Tracy Sahler, who handles public relations for the Wicomico County Board of Education.

“The organizations that currently provide after-school recreation programs and health services on the property will be able to continue to do so. They will be part of the conversation as plans are made for a permanent Choices Academy and community center building on Calloway Street,” according to a news release issued by the Wicomico County Board of Education.

Board members signed a contract for a 3-acre parcel.  Settlement should be in early September.

Choices has been situated in buildings off Jersey Road that had housed the Wicomico Applied Technology Center. For the past several years, it’s been on the West Salisbury Elementary School property.  A new West Salisbury Elementary is now being built, so Choices must be moved, so access roads for buses and delivery vehicles can be built, Sahler said

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Hanlin and Mayor Jake Day have agreed that a goal is to not only relocate Choices but also to create a new community center for youth with after-school recreation programs and health services, she said.

The relocation will take time, Sahler said.

Work to ready the portables will begin in September. Beginning that same month, Choices Academy will be housed on the Wicomico Middle School campus, in the modular building used by the middle school during its recent HVAC renovation project.

Hanlin called the move to Calloway Street “a win for everyone – the city, the county, the community and the school system.”

“We’re excited to partner with Mayor Jake Day and the city of Salisbury on a shared vision to construct a permanent building to house both the Choices Academy and a future community center,” Hanlin said.

The mayor said the city is “proud to partner with the Wicomico County Board of Education and Wicomico County Public Schools to create an environment within which Choices Academy students can have their needs met, a place where they will have their best chance at being successful.”

“By making the community center a part of this project, we are ensuring that students have options not just during the school day, but after-hours as well,” Day said.

Jermichael Mitchel, co-founder of the after-school program KIDZ R.O.C., an acronym for Reaching our Children, said youth need programs in their neighborhoods.

“The city, county and school officials are working hand-in-hand to ensure that all youth are prepared not only for school, but to further themselves and be ready for life beyond high school. Teamwork is a must for success,” he said.

John Palmer, a member of the Wicomico County Board of Education, called the new building “a wonderful milestone for the students, staff and families of our Choices Academy.”

“This will give the students a permanent home. They’re still kids. I don’t care what problems they’re having,” he said.

“Our teachers in our schools are very dedicated. They appear to me to enjoy what they’re doing and they like the challenges, so I think it’s a great idea. I know they have special needs and they have to be taught in a little different manner.  No longer will these students be moved around from place to place. This will allow for greater flexibility to enhance school environment and will support students who require a smaller, more structured learning atmosphere,” he said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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