Odyssey Charter School gets unified campus

The building at Barley Mill Plaza will undergo significant renovations before it houses Odyssey Charter School’s fourth-through-eighth grades this fall.
The building at Barley Mill Plaza will undergo significant renovations before it houses Odyssey Charter School’s fourth-through-eighth grades this fall.

By Christi Milligan

Odyssey Charter School will boast a unified K-12 campus following the purchase of property at Barley Mill Plaza that includes 36 acres and eight buildings. The Delaware Economic Development Office acted as a conduit issuer of $33 million in tax-exempt bonds toward the purchase.

The Wilmington-based charter school has been open nearly a decade, but exists at two separate campuses: the Lower School Campus in Building 20 at the Barley Mill site on Route 141 houses kindergarten-through-fourth grades, while the Upper School Campus on Bayard Avenue holds fifth-through-seventh grades.

For a school that’s doubled its student population in the last three years, Headmaster Dr. Nick T. Manolakos said purchase of the Barley Mill property and Buildings 20 through 27 has created a different kind of momentum and enthusiasm at the school.

“If there’s anything that’s held us back, it’s not having a permanent facility and unified campus,” said Manolakos. “This is a huge accomplishment for our founders and the members of our board.”

Convenience, on-campus athletic fields and the ability to incrementally increase their grades year by year are just some of the tangibles for the 940-student school.

Manolakos said two buildings at the site will be razed to make way for athletic fields, while Building 22 will undergo significant renovations to make room for the fourth-through-eighth grades next year.

The school will introduce an additional grade each subsequent year and tentatively plans to cap its student population at 1,720.

“Parents choose charter schools for safety and academics, or whatever the pecking issue is for parental choices,” said Manolakos. “Now we’re going to have that issue of location resolved. We’re growing into our paws, so to speak.”

While working toward a unified campus, Odyssey Charter School has also been steadily making a name for itself among high-performing Delaware charter schools, earning a superior rating from the state Department of Education for 2008 and 2012 and a high performing school rating from the state in 2013.

Manolakos was also awarded the Impact Award by the Delaware Charter Network last year.

But the headmaster was quick to point to the strength of the school’s teachers and the founders’ vision as the reason for their success. There was also a tremendous parental demand that sparked growth at the school, he said.

“Our Greek curriculum is developing and becoming more challenging and engaging over time,” he said. “The extra math and language blocking are reaching some of the benefits that professionals talk about.”

Construction should be completed in time for school to begin, and Manolakos said he hopes the campus will be a valuable resource for the community.

“We have an aggressive building program in full force with designers and engineers,” he said. “I think it will add an intangible feeling of stability and continuity to our programs.”

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