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By Alex Kowalski
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE -- The Providence City Council approved the lease of the decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry Middle School for private nonprofit charter school network Achievement First to base the Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary.
The contentiously debated charter school was approved in February of last year by the Board of Regents and is set to open this August. Its initial run of 176 kindergarteners and first-graders who were chosen by blind lottery “with preferences for low income families” will attend tuition-free regardless of “special needs, language or citizenship,” according to a release.
Despite its future Providence location on Hartford Street, the charter school is enrolling students from the surrounding cities and towns of Warwick, Cranston and North Providence. When it opens, it will be Providence’s sixth operational charter school and Rhode Island’s 16th.
“Achievement First has already built community partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club and the Providence Housing Authority family developments at Manton Heights and Hartford Park, and staff members have walked throughout the area to talk with our new neighbors,” said Ben Smith, founding director of school operations for Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary, in prepared remarks. “We are excited to partner with the neighborhood and look forward to the school’s opening in August.”
To bring the outdated Perry Middle School building to operational standards, Achievement First said it plans to funnel over $10 million in “private philanthropy and nonprofit lending sources” towards structural renovations, remediation and asbestos abatement over the next three-to-four years. The city originally closed the public middle school in 2009.
Achievement First runs a network of 22 college-preparatory public charter schools across New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, enrolling over 7,000 students. Rhode Island charter schools undergo an evaluation every five years for re-approval of said charters.
The financial terms of the lease were not disclosed. Representatives from Achievement First were not immediately available for comment.