CAMDEN, NJ— KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy will soon be opening a school in Camden City’s Centerville neighborhood.
The Camden City Planning board Thursday awarded preliminary and final site plan approval for the charter school network to renovate and operate out of the former Charles Sumner School.
The KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy Charles Sumner School is expected to open in fall of 2020, and in its first year serve 110 students in kindergarten and first grade, said KIPP Cooper Norcross Executive Director Drew Martin. The school will grow to serve about 550 students in grades kindergarten through fourth.
The school will be KIPP Cooper Norcross’ fourth in Camden, and its third campus in the city. It currently operates KIPP Cooper Norcross Lanning Square Elementary and Middle School, and Kipp Cooper Norcross John Greenleaf Whittier Middle School.
It will operate as a renaissance school, a charter-public school hybrid created under the Urban Hope Act. Renaissance schools are operated by independent, nonprofit charters, but are financed differently and serve students in the neighborhood in which they are located.
Martin said that the renovations are expected to at least cost $10 million and take 12 to 18 months to complete. The renovations to the three-story school will include a state-of-the-art turf playing field, a three-story elevator tower, installation of heating and air conditioning and new entranceways and awnings, along with bring the building up to modern standards.
“Just breathing new life into the building,” Martin said.
There will also be a plaque honoring the school’s history installed on the grounds.
The Charles Sumner School, constructed in 1926, was closed at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Members of the community spoke in support of its reopening as a renaissance school at the planning board meeting Thursday night.
“I’m really excited about KIPP planning to reopen the Sumner school in the Centerville,” said Jovana Ramos, a Camden resident and teacher at KIPP Cooper Norcross Lanning Square. “Sumner was the first school I ever attended, and it's also the place where I learned English … I remember it being an important part of the community.”
The Charles Sumner School is located at 1600 S. Eighth St., and was named after Charles Sumner, a leader of the anti-slavery coalition in the U.S. Senate during the Civil War.