Research Triangle High School

Everyone knows what a typical, good ol’ fashioned red-blooded American high school looks like.  Brick and mortar buildings with lockers lining hallways, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, the football stadium, and so on and so on.  Some charter schools look like that, too.  Others don’t.

The front lobby of RTHS, under construction.

Research Triangle High School definitely falls into the “others don’t” category.  As a fast-track charter school whose charter was just approved on March 1, RTHS didn’t have time to erect a new school from scratch in time for the school year to start.  So such schools have to find the best existing building possible and make it work – Raleigh Charter High School occupied the old Pilot Mill buildings near downtown Raleigh from its opening in 1999 until they bought their own new building in 2011.

Going to high school in a mill must’ve been an awesome experience – I took my quiz bowl teams to many tournaments there each year and my kids and I could never get over how much character the place had.  But there was no stadium, no gym, no auditorium, and no cafeteria.

Research Triangle found a building that you would never think could be the home to a high school – an unoccupied strip mall in the heart of Research Triangle Park.  It has some great advantages, too – it’s convenient to Interstate 40 and N.C. 54, the two main roads through RTP, it gives us plenty of room to grow, and it’s located near several Triangle Transit bus stops.  That last part is particularly important, because like most charter schools, we don’t have our own buses.

The café, flanked by the teachers’ offices (left) and a conference room that will be available to students.

And just like Raleigh Charter, we won’t have a cafeteria or a gym either.  We will, however, have an area we’re going to call the gallery or café where students can eat lunch they bring from home, work in their study halls, or get stuff done before or after school.  It’s going to have tables and easy chairs, almost like a coffee shop.  We’re looking at some other cool food options to occasionally provide, too.  For athletics, we’re going to have to find options off-campus like community centers, the gyms at RTP companies, or city parks.  We’ll also probably play a lot of away games, especially the first year.

After having some very nice amenities at Robinson, working here will probably be a bit of an adjustment at first.  But the other teachers and I are focusing on what we will have instead of what we won’t have – a first-class faculty, an administration that values teacher autonomy and creativity, and access to technology and other resources that will help us give our students a world-class 21st century education.

School starts at Research Triangle on August 13, one month from today.  There’s a lot to be done before then – two more sessions of Meet RTHS Camp, putting the finishing touches on the curriculum, and moving my teacher stuff into my classroom, among other things.  But watching this nondescript shell of a building turn into one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of has been the thrill of a lifetime.  Just like Raleigh Charter made the old mill buildings their own amazing school, we’ll make this strip mall one seriously awesome place.