Newark will open new ‘global studies’ high school to train future diplomats, business leaders

Newark will open a new international-themed high school next year, with hopes of training future diplomats and business leaders fluent in world languages.

At the Newark School of Global Studies, students will study diplomacy while learning to speak Arabic or take courses in economics while gaining fluency in Chinese culture and language, Superintendent Roger León announced Tuesday.

“It is our school of the future,” León said at the school board meeting.

The district will also open the Sir Isaac Newton Elementary School, replacing the Newton Street School that was closed several years ago. That school will serve students in prekindergarten to first grade beginning next September, then will grow by one grade each year until reaching eighth grade.

Since becoming superintendent last year, León has promised to create new options within the Newark school system that appeal to students’ diverse interests — and also convince families to think twice before decamping to one of the city’s many charter, private, and county-run schools. 

This school year, the district has launched several new career-focused “academies” inside the comprehensive high schools and is rushing to complete a state-of-the-art facility for a revamped vocational high school.

His efforts to expand the district’s offerings follow the rapid growth of Newark’s charter school networks over the past decade; at least seven of those networks educate students through 12th grade, including KIPP New Jersey, which opened a new high school this year. The district loses public funding every time a Newark student opts for a charter school over a district school.

A few years ago, state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson also oversaw the creation of several new high schools. But those openings were overshadowed by her closure of several more schools, partly due to the loss of students and funding to the charter sector.

“The more schools that we open, the more students that will come to us,” León told the board at a retreat in August. “The more schools we close, the less students will come to us.”

The new global studies high school will open in September with about 100 ninth-graders, adding an additional grade each year until it reached 12th grade, León said. It will be housed in a North Ward building currently occupied by a preschool, which will be relocated.

Admitted students will decide this spring whether to pursue the diplomacy track or one focused on international business.

The aspiring diplomats will take four years of Arabic while studying Middle Eastern culture and taking Advanced Placement classes in government and politics, according to a description that León presented. The business students will study Chinese for four years, along with AP classes in economics and Chinese language and culture. Once students have mastered those languages, they will take an “international seminar” in a different country.

“The curriculum fosters fluency in a second language, immersion in a foreign culture and the exchange of ideas via advanced technology,” the description said.

In a brief interview Tuesday evening, León said that students hoping to attend the high school will take the new placement test given to all incoming high schoolers, which determines admission to the selective magnet schools and honors programs at the comprehensive high schools. But the global studies school will not screen applicants based on their grades and test scores as the magnet schools do, León added.

However, at a parent conference Tuesday, León suggested that the new high school is still intended for students with strong academic records.

“All of the classes will be AP,” he told parents, “which means if you’re coming to the school, you need to come ready for the school.”

After León previewed the new high school at the parent conference, several attendees said they were eager to learn more details and found the idea exciting.

“I would consider sending my grandkids there,” said Mary Paige, who has 18 grandchildren in the Newark school system. “To be honest with you, they need to do another language besides English — that would help them down the road.”

Devna Bose contributed reporting.