PROVIDENCE — Another large, out-of-state charter school has applied to open in Providence. Excel Academy hopes to serve more than 2,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12 by the time it fills all of its grades.
Excel, which runs four charter schools in greater Boston, would enroll students from Providence, Central Falls and North Providence.
The proposal has the backing of the three mayors, and it would operate as a mayoral academy, which means the mayors of the participating communities chair the board. Blackstone Valley Prep and Achievement First in Providence are mayoral charter schools.
Five new charter-school applications are before the Rhode Island Department of Education. In addition, three existing charter schools — Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls, Rhode Island Nurses Middle College in Providence and Achievement First — are seeking to expand.
Excel Academy has applied to open a K-12 charter school for 2,186 students.
In 2003, Excel Academy was founded in East Boston “with a singular, but profound focus: to close the opportunity gap for low-income students of color,” the school said in its application. Seventeen years later, it encompasses almost 1,400 students.
Excel said its interest in Rhode Island was sparked by the Johns Hopkins findings on the state of Providence schools in June.
“This report painted a stark picture of who is most at risk of being left behind by the current system — low-income students, minority students, students learning English, and those with learning disabilities,” the school wrote. “This is the very population we set out to serve in Massachusetts 17 years ago, and we have a consistent track record of achieving educational excellence with this very population.”
“As mayor, I am constantly working to create new opportunities for North Providence residents and to find partners that will enhance our community,” said the town’s mayor, Charles A. Lombardi. “I see the establishment of the Excel Academy as a significant opportunity to access a high-quality education for students and families in North Providence.”
The other new applications are:
Medical Preparatory Academy of Rhode Island, a grades 9-12 school with 216 students. The school wants to prepare students for careers in medicine, research and postgraduate healthcare professions. It would enroll students from Providence and Pawtucket and be located in the former Bishop Keough Regional High School in Pawtucket.
Nuestro Mundo Charter School, a K-8 school with 414 students proposed for Providence, a dual-language immersion school with a strong emphasis on community environmental projects. The school in 2019 withdrew its application to open in Woonsocket after the plan met with resistance from School Committee members, who feared it would siphon off state aid.
With charter schools, per-pupil tuition follows the student from his home school to the charter. Charter schools are public schools with public funding, but they have greater flexibility regarding such things as the curriculum and the length of the school day.
Wangari Maathai Community School in Providence, would serve 378 students in grades K-8. The school says students will explore nature and become engaged in real-world projects to learn skills like collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and self-reflection.
The school had to pull its application last summer after the John Hope Settlement House, a social services agency in Providence, declined to vote on the lease agreement. The proposal blew up when supporters of John Hope found out about the charter school in April. In two public meetings, residents accused the charter and the John Hope board of excluding them from the decision-making process.
Providence Preparatory Charter School in Providence. A grades 5-8 school, it would serve 252 students. The school says it would offer a longer school day and a longer school year to “create a warm, safe, academically challenging school environment.” The school’s goal is to have all of its graduates earn scores high enough for admission into Classical High School, the city’s only exam-admission school.
Toby Shepherd, Providence Prep’s founding director, most recently served as the executive director of the Nowell Leadership Academy, a public charter high school serving pregnant and parenting young adults.
Achievement First has applied to open two more kindergarten through grade 8 schools in Providence, a plan that could bring enrollment to 5,700 students in 10 years.
The charter network, which operates schools in New York and Connecticut, currently has two K-8 schools and another elementary school that will grow to include grade 8. If the latest proposal is approved, Achievement First would have a total of five K-8 schools and two high schools.
The charter’s current enrollment is 1,500 students.
The plans must be approved by State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante Green. In December, they go before the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education for review and possibly preliminary approval. The council is to make its final decision next spring.
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