Free school for disadvantaged youth

DURHAM The Union Independent School is set to open in July. The lottery to select new students for the school is scheduled for June 20th and will admit 72 students in grades kindergarten thru second on July 15th.

"This school is going to be life-changing," offered Head of School Troy Weaver.

With 49,000 square feet and multiple classrooms designed for high tech equipment, the new school is built in the heart of northeast central Durham.

"Most of the negative demographics converge in this section of the city. We're after educating the kids who are most at risk," said Rev. Kenneth Hammond with Union Baptist Church.

Union Baptist is footing the bills for the school. It paid $10.5 million for construction and plans to set up a $35m endowment to keep it tuition free.

"So certainly we're beating the bushes for people who believe in young people. We need them to step up to the plate," said Hammond.

The church hopes potential donors will see it as a long term investment in the Durham community.

More than 70 students start classes next month. The school will begin with kindergarten through second grade, and then add a grade every year until the school becomes K-8.

While a church is footing the bills, Hammond says it's not about religion. It's about lifting kids out of poverty.

"I always tell folks if you want religion come to this side of the street and if you want a quality education come to this side of the street," he explained. "We think what we've created here is a model for urban education."

The new school will operate on a year-round calendar.

Copyright © 2024 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.