Hilliard resident Jali Ayoub's two youngest children will have an opportunity her other four children did not – to complete their high school education at the same chartered Islamic school where it began.

"Sunrise (Academy) is a family," Ayoub said. "It's a good thing (the students) will be able to continue (attending the same school)."

More than 100 people, including students and their families, gathered Dec. 6 for the opening of Sunrise Academy Middle and High School, 5677 Scioto Darby Road in Hilliard.

The Islamic Society of Greater Columbus purchased the property, a 13,000-square-foot Hometown Urgent Care building on 4 acres, in February for $1.05 million from Heritage Medical LLC, according to Franklin County property records.

Hometown Urgent Care will vacate the portion of the building it occupies by the end of January, after which the school will remodel the remainder of the building, said Mona Salti, principal of the Sunrise Academy Middle and High School and Sunrise Academy.

Before the opening of the middle school and high school, students at Sunrise Academy, 5657 Scioto Darby Road, did not have the option to continue after completing eighth grade at Sunrise Academy, a chartered Islamic school that opened in 1996 at the one-time Hilliard branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library at the southeast corner of Scioto Darby Road and Veterans Memorial Drive.

For Ayoub, that meant enrolling her children in a public school district, Hilliard City Schools, where she said her son, Ibrahiem, a sophomore at Hilliard Davidson High School, initially "struggled to find his footing."

Her daughter, Layla, a senior at Davidson, received occasional unwanted comments about her head scarf, Ayoub said.

Along with her other two children who are Davidson graduates, Layla and Ibrahiem have been successful, Ayoub said, but she is thankful her two youngest children, Adam, a sixth-grader, and Aliya, a seventh-grader, will have the opportunity to continue their education at Sunrise Academy Middle and High School.

"All the teachers know the students, and long-term friendships are made here," she said.

Sandra Osman, co-president of the PTO at Sunrise Academy, said she is "blessed" that all four of her children attended Sunrise and that her youngest, twin 9-year-olds who are in the fourth grade, will have the opportunity to continue their education at an Islamic school.

"It's not just about education -- it provides a safe environment for our students to flourish as unapologetic Muslims," Osman said.

Seventy-five sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and two freshmen moved into a portion of the new building Nov. 11, but the grand opening provided the first opportunity for extended family and friends to tour the brightly colored classrooms at the new school.

In May, the city approved a conditional-use permit that allowed the students to move to a portion of the building not occupied by the urgent care.

Now, up to 175 students in grades six to 12 are permitted to attend the middle school and high school after the Hilliard Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 14 approved a conditional-use permit for it to occupy the urgent-care building.

"The opening (of the middle school and high school) is just the start," Salti said.

The Sunrise schools' shared campus "will be vehicles to achieve the mission of being a national model for the global contributions" of its future graduates, she said.

Only two freshmen attend the high school right now, and one new class will be added one year at a time until all four high school class levels are represented, Salti said.

The conditional-use permit contained six conditions, including capping the number of students at the two-school campus to 550, unless otherwise approved by the commission.

Additional conditions include limiting the number of parking permits at the high school to 27 for students and 24 for staff and, during morning drop-off times and after-school pickup times, requiring vehicles to enter the high school's south driveway and exit from the north driveway.

About 425 students are enrolled at both schools, according to Mouhamed Tarazi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Columbus.

The number of classrooms at each building aligns with the 550-student cap, and it is not anticipated the middle school and high school will achieve an enrollment of 175 students in the next three years, Tarazi said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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