By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Thirty students make up the inaugural class of the NEXT Charter School.
The town’s first alternative high school is now open for business. It offers a different learning environment for high school students in Derry and surrounding towns.
The school is located in the former Derry Early Education Program space at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.
Charter schools are public institutions operating under a board of trustees. The schools offer a nontraditional education for students who may want an alternative for their high school years.
Justin Krieger and Joe Crawford, both former middle school assistant principals in the Derry district, first presented the charter school plan to the public last year. Residents then cast ballots in a nonbinding vote and supported the charter school plan.
More public information sessions followed, the plan went before the state Board of Education and was approved in June. The school receives state and federal funding.
Krieger and Crawford serve as co-directors of the school. There are also four professional teachers on staff.
Krieger and Crawford also teach. Students are assigned advisors as part of their learning plan.
There are also two Ameri-Corps students working at the charter school.
Krieger said opening day was exciting and smooth.
“I got here to the school at 4 a.m.,” he said. “It was an exciting time.”
He said he wanted to greet each new student by name and also get their families involved in the process of what NEXT is all about.
That includes coming up with a learning mission statement and other policies that the charter school will put into place.
Andy Bengtson teaches math at NEXT. He comes to the program after teaching for several years in the Derry public school system.
He said there are so many different ways of educating students. He wanted to be part of the NEXT generation.
“I am excited to be doing something different,” he said. “There is more real world stuff, and I wanted to be part of this community.”
Curriculum is more individualized learning and real-life applications for what lies ahead after high school. A lot of students go through the motions in a traditional high school setting, Crawford said.
It’s an alternative way to learn.
“It’s not always one size fits all for students,” Crawford said.
He and Krieger agreed the NEXT program will offer something for all students needing a different method of learning.
To learn more about NEXT Charter School, visit nextcharterschool.org.