“It’s not a school in itself,” said Kate Rubalcava, NTC Foundation director of programs and operations. “It was an education program developed in 2007 by the NTC Foundation with two major goals in mind: to give back to the community, and to reach children who were underserved, especially in the arts education area.”
Liberty School serves elementary students from three area schools — Dewey Elementary in Point Loma, Perkins Elementary in Barrio Logan and Washington Elementary in Little Italy.
Dewey Elementary Principal Tanya McMillin said Liberty School is providing essential supplementary education.
“The opportunities for our students to shine in more than just academic areas is so apparent when you watch our students blossom,” McMillin said. “The students who may not be the best at reading and writing find their genius in other pathways and Liberty School allows them to do that.
“Attendance to school on Liberty School days is higher. Enthusiasm for school is higher. Our students seem more joyful,” McMillin said.
Third-grade Dewey Elementary student Keiana agreed. “I did not know how much of an artist I was until I stepped foot in Liberty School,” she said. “I also didn’t know how much art there was around me.”
Many Liberty School pupils are military dependents who struggle emotionally with mom or dad being deployed for long periods, creating single-parent households. Many are homeless and/or come from below-poverty income levels and struggle with constant transition and a lack of security.
Rubalcava noted Dewey has a high military population, Perkins has a large number of homeless and English as a second language students and Washington Elementary typically has students with lower test scores and a higher level of financial need.
The NTC Foundation director said Liberty School sessions are typically four to six weeks with an hour to an hour and a half of class time. She noted Liberty's curriculum includes subjects like photography, animation, dance, theater arts, and writing.
“It’s an extension beyond what they are doing in the classroom,” Rubalcava said. “Our (Liberty Station) tenants work with their school teachers to put an arts format into what they don’t get in their curriculum in the classroom.”
On average, Rubalcava said students come to Liberty School to take a total of 16 individual classes in categories including dance, photography and media arts.
“It’s to enhance their education beyond what they’re currently doing in their classrooms,” she said. “It’s not meant to be just a field trip. Our tenants work directly with school teachers on their core standards to meet expectations for their grade levels.”
For more information, visit ntcfoundation.org/community-impact/liberty-school/.