NEAAAT plans move to new location in 2020

TJ - new principal.jpg

Dr. Andrew Harris


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies plans to move into its new home at Southgate Park by the end of the next school year.

Although the charter school will start the 2019-2020 school year on the campus of Elizabeth City State University and use that space through the end of the first semester, sometime in the spring semester of 2020 the school plans to move into a new facility at Southgate Park, according to NEAAAT Chief Executive Officer Andrew Harris.

Plans call for 61,231 square feet of space in the new facility at the site of the former Southgate Mall, including 23 traditional classrooms as well as multiple laboratory spaces and seven conference rooms. Harris said the emphasis on conference room space reflects the school’s culture of project-based learning. Lab spaces will include an aviation lab, science lab, engineering lab and health care sciences lab.

The precise date for construction to begin at the Southgate site has not been determined, but the school is aiming for the latter part of July. Construction should be completed in seven to eight months, Harris said.

The new NEAAAT facility will be a combination of new construction and renovation. The plan is to use as much of the existing structure as possible to reduce costs.

The school’s new home will be located behind the stores at Southgate Park. It will be separated from the stores by a physical barrier.

The new facility will maintain some of the remaining glass storefronts in order to keep something of the “old mall feel,” Harris said.

The cost of the new facility is projected at $6.5 million, Harris said. An all-new building with a similar floor plan would run $25 million to $28 million, so making use of renovated space is saving significant money, according to Harris.

NEAAAT plans to borrow $5.7 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Golden LEAF Foundation has provided a $450,000 grant and the Kenan Trust has pitched in another $300,000.

The school is looking at maintaining a presence — though much smaller than now — on the ECSU campus.

“We have spoken with ECSU about maintaining a presence on this campus,” Harris said.

The new facility is not the only indication that the school is coming into its own. NEAAAT is holding its first graduation ceremony June 1 for an inaugural class of about 50 graduates. 

The school’s Class of 2019 has completed more than 1,400 hours of college credit, saving area families $1.25 million in college tuition costs. The class also has earned more than $1.5 million in scholarship funding. And all the graduates have completed at least 200 hours of community service.

Nine graduates have already earned degrees from College of The Albemarle. By the end of the summer that number is expected to reach 15, meaning roughly 30 percent of the graduating class will already have earned a degree.

At least two other graduates are moving into aviation-related training programs at COA, according to Harris.

“Of course we’re proud of these markers for the first class,” Harris said.

While many graduates will be continuing their education in college, others are headed straight for the workforce — some to jobs they learned about in internships with local companies such as Colony Tire and B&M Contractors.

NEAAAT is exploring internship opportunities with other area companies such as Regulator Marine.

“We know that there clearly is a skills gap and we want to help close it,” Harris said. “There are a lot of opportunities right here in the region that people really don’t realize are here.”