GLOW Academy closes in on grand opening of new campus

Updated: Jun. 12, 2019 at 2:25 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Record rainfall and two hurricanes last year did their best to delay construction of the new Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington but despite being up against some heavy weather-related odds, GLOW is a go.

Wilmington's only single gender charter school is scheduled to open its middle and high school campus by August, when it will begin serving around 400 sixth through ninth grade students for the 2019-20 school year.

On Wednesday, GLOW leaders gave a tour of the $16 million facility, which features an 18,600 square foot middle school building, 19,183 square foot high school building, roomy, state of the art media center, cafeteria, teaching kitchen, outdoor learning area and more.

“The work that has been done here to get us to this place, to where we will open school here in August, is phenomenal,” GLOW NC President and CEO Todd Godbey said. “When we bring folks onto this campus, A. they’re amazed that we got all this done in this amount of time, or that Monteith Construction got all this done in this amount of time, but they’re also amazed at the scope of the project and how big and how nice the school is.”

Workers broke ground on the new school in mid-May 2018 and despite the rain clouds and storms that seemed to hover above Wilmington for weeks on end after that, construction continued and even though there is work left to be done, administrative staff are expected to begin moving in this month.

The middle school and media center should be open by mid-July and the high school building, which will house the art and music studio and science lab, is expected to be completed by mid-October.

An artist rendering of the new GLOW Academy in Wilmington.
An artist rendering of the new GLOW Academy in Wilmington.(LS3P Architecture)

During Wednesday's tour, it was announced that Food Network celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine will return to GLOW for the Sept. 5 grand opening. All three have helped raise money for the academy through annual events and share a connection to GLOW Academy Founder Judy Girard, the Food Network president from 1994-2004.

GLOW Principal Laura Hunter said the students and staff are thrilled with the new school, particularly since they had essentially outgrown their current home on South College Road.

"When you've got a large family and you're living in a small space, it makes things hard," Hunter said. "You've had to negotiate transitions and spaces and chairs getting knocked against walls and cramming a lot of people into not a lot of space.

"I think everybody is gonna feel very cathartic about this move but we're also excited. It's fun to move into a new, shiny space that has been very specifically designed for your function."

Construction costs are projected at $14 million. Fundraising and pledges make up more than 50 percent of the project costs with the remainder to be finances, according to Godbey.

"As a charter school, we don't get facility money from the state so we had to make this happen with community dollars and with the wonderful, generous support of Wilmington," Godbey said.

On Wednesday, GLOW announced it is naming a building on the new campus after tennis great Althea Gibson, who moved to Wilmington in 1946 to attend Williston High School and train under tennis coach Dr. Hubert A. Eaton. Gibson went on to become the first black person to win Wimbledon, the French Open, the US Open and Australian doubles in the late 1950s.

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