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Ivy Academy puts down permanent roots

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Emily Crisman

Executive Director Angie Markum stands with contractor Ray Alamo in the school’s new building.

Ivy Academy is busy preparing to move to its new home this fall, located across the street from the trailers the charter school has occupied on rented land since it was founded in 2009.

The school was previously paying around $8,000 a month to lease the land and portables and to pay taxes. Through grants, school officials were able to purchase the strip mall across the street, at 8520 Dayton Pike, and turn it into the campus of their dreams.

One of the main benefits to moving into a building that is owned by the school is the community trust that builds, said Executive Director Angie Markum.

“They know we’re not going anywhere,” she said. “There’s greater parent participation when they know it’s something that will grow and build.”

Students will also experience pride in ownership, said Markum.

“To walk in and have nice surroundings boosts student morale,” she said.

The architect designed the entrance to mimic the flow of the creek that runs along the edge of the property. Each of the 12 classrooms has doors to the outside, where the school has access to the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and 8.5 acres of its own land.

“We look at the gorge as an infinite resource of manipulatives,” said Markum.

The outdoor resources work well with the school’s focus on project-based learning, she said.

The entrance will also feature a huge 180-gallon aquarium donated by a local dentist. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency plans to shock the creek and capture native fish to keep in the tank, and the Tennessee Aquarium will oversee their care.

Another benefit to owning the land is the school can now erect permanent structures, such as National Park-style kiosks that explain what is growing in the school’s gardens or outdoor chalkboards.

The school is moving all its gardens to the new campus, as well as its poultry program, which will be allowed to expand at the new site along with the on-campus vegetable program.

Jacob Clark, a 2014 graduate who was named “Mr. Ivy” for exemplifying the school’s ideals, said his interest in the outdoors did not bloom until he came to Ivy.

“I couldn’t care less about the outdoors or doing stuff for the environment before I came here,” he said. “I’m definitely more in love with nature.”

He praises the teachers’ attitudes and unique methods of teaching and the school’s general atmosphere.

“No other school in Tennessee offers the environment they do here, which I think is what has helped me to excel in my weakest areas,” said Clark, who still comes to campus every chance he gets. “It helped me realize what I want to do with my life, and I feel like I can really succeed.”

The new campus allows room for about 25 more students this fall. Applications are currently being accepted and the school requests they be turned in by July 25.

Markum said the plan is to turn the new school building into a middle school in 2015-2016 and to build a new high school building next door.

For more information, visit ivyacademychattanooga.com or call 305-7494.