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Local, State and U.S. Leaders Join Students, Parents and Teachers for KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy Dedication
Academy is New Jersey’s First Renaissance School
CAMDEN, N.J. —Local, state and U.S. leaders joined students, parents and teachers today for the dedication of KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, New Jersey’s first renaissance school, created in partnership with KIPP, one of the most renowned, national networks of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools, The Cooper Foundation, the charitable arm of Cooper University Health Care, and the Norcross Foundation.
Established under the Urban Hope Act, the newly constructed K-8 school provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum beginning in the earliest grades and offers guaranteed enrollment for children from the Lanning Square and Cooper Plaza neighborhoods.
“This world-class facility, New Jersey’s first renaissance school, is a shining example of how we can deliver resources, opportunities and hope to students in Camden, and in struggling districts throughout New Jersey,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, (NJ-01). “I am proud to be here to mark this historic occasion for the students of KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy—their futures begin here.”
As a New Jersey state Senator, Norcross co-sponsored the Urban Hope Act with former Assemblyman Angel Fuentes and Assemblyman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson. The legislation created a pilot program to provide students in three struggling districts – Camden, Newark and Trenton – access to new, quality public schools in their communities.
More than 300 people attended today’s dedication including students and teachers along with state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez; Camden Mayor Dana Redd, Camden City Council President Frank Moran; Camden Superintendent of Schools Paymon Rouhanifard; Ryan Hill, CEO of KIPP New Jersey; Drew Martin, Executive Director of KIPP Norcross Academy; George E. Norcross, III, Chairman of the Cooper Board of Trustees; Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation; Sheila Davis, President of the Lanning Square West Association, and Sheila Roberts, President of the Cooper Lanning Civic Association.
“The opening of this beautiful new school represents another significant milestone in Camden’s ongoing transformation,” said Redd. “The City’s future is only as bright as the future of its children. In providing Camden’s children with premier quality facilities, instructors, curricula and support, together we are working to create a much brighter future for our children and for our city as a whole.”
The new 110,000-square-foot facility, which opened in August 2015, offers modern classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, art and music rooms, science labs, a cafeteria and auditorium space as well as a gym. The campus also features extensive recreational amenities including playing fields, outdoor basketball courts, and play areas for younger students.
“This new neighborhood school is a symbol of hope for the City of Camden,” said Moran. “These new classrooms along with the technology and the recreational facilities here show our commitment to ensuring that our children have the same opportunities as their peers in even the most affluent school districts in New Jersey.”
Launched in August 2014 with 100 kindergarten students at temporary neighborhood sites while construction of the new facility was underway, the new academy is currently serving approximately 700 students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grades and in fifth through eighth grades. In addition, the Camden School District is using the building to serve children in grades second, third and fourth. The KIPP Cooper Norcross network will include three additional new schools: an elementary school, middle school and a high school eventually serving 2,800 students.
“A high-quality, neighborhood public school in Lanning Square has been a long time coming,” said Rouhanifard. “I look forward to returning to this beautiful facility to celebrate the many achievements of its students in the years to come as we seek to build on this progress across the city.”
Students are already making progress, as evidenced by the Academy’s founding kindergarten class. A review of their Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores showed an average percentile increase of 25.6 percent in reading and an average percentile increase of 42.9 percent in math proficiency at end of last school year.
“Excellence is the bedrock of our culture at the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy,” said Martin. “We believe, and our experience has demonstrated, that kids will rise to meet the bar you set for them if you provide them with the right tools, skills, guidance and encouragement.”
As part of the dedication celebration, first graders sang a song and middle school students performed a school cheer. Students also presented dignitaries with KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy T-shirts.
“We’ve waited a long time for this day, but no one has waited longer than this community. This school is for the neighborhood children and their families,” said George E. Norcross, III. “The students who attend KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy represent the next generation of leaders. They are our future scientists, inventors, CEOs, doctors, and diplomats. They will change the city – and the world – for the better.”
Orientation classes began Aug. 24, 2015, and the regular school year began Sept. 9, 2015. The Cooper Foundation’s Operation Backpack distribution was held on Sept. 1, 2015 providing students new backpacks filled with school supplies donated by Cooper University Health Care employees, the Women’s Board Committee of The Cooper Foundation, Camden construction firm Joseph Jingoli and Sons, Inc., and Staples Advantage.
“Strong schools are the foundations of strong communities,” said Levin. “By building this school, we are building a stronger Camden, one where children have the tools and support they need to reach the sky and turn their dreams into reality.”
To learn more about the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy please visit: http://kippnj.org/.