ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Amana Academy, an Alpharetta charter school, has completed an $8.5 million expansion of the school and is poised to expand further.
“This is a milestone for a startup charter school,” Amana Executive Director Ehab Jaleel said.
The school raised $8.5 million through a bond program to build the middle school wing, which is the first phase of their building program. The next phases include building an elementary school wing and renovating the central “big box” section.
The new wing features 12 classrooms and two science labs as well as a multipurpose room.
The $5 million to $6 million needed for the next phases will be funded through private monies.
There are 720 students enrolled in the school. The student population is divided into four classes per grade and 24 kids per class.
Jaleel said that when the school initially wanted to expand, they tried to buy out their building from the landlord. When that did not work out, they went elsewhere.
“We looked at two dozen properties,” Jaleel said.
That included one office complex on Windward Parkway that seemed to fit the bill. The city and nearby residents forced the school to look elsewhere. That search led them right back to the current building, a renovated grocery store in a strip mall shopping center.
“We came back here,” Jaleel said. “That set the stage for us to focus on one thing.”
The school took out the bond to expand and buy the entire property, which is a plus, he said, because the school is their home and, situated next to Wills Park, in a prime spot for education.
Using the bond money, the school bought the property and began expanding one wing of the school – which is the middle school.
Jaleel said the school and its board were especially careful about their expansion, coming hot on the heels of the failed expansion and subsequent revocation of the charter of the Fulton Science Academy. By working with the school system, Amana overcame the hurdles and succeeded.
Amana was started in 2005 and is unique in teaching its students Arabic, being one of the few public schools to do so. “Amana” means “stewardship” in Arabic.
“It’s amazing what you can do with a grocery store when you put your mind and shoulder to it,” said Ken Zeff, Fulton Schools’ chief strategy and innovation officer, which oversees charter schools.
On hand for the ribbon cutting of the new wing were numerous local dignitaries, including Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, Fulton Commission Chairman John Eaves and Sen. Brandon Beach.