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Providence schools to launch freshman academy

The Newcomer Program building on Branch Avenue will serve as the location of a new Providence Public Schools freshman academy. (WJAR){ }
The Newcomer Program building on Branch Avenue will serve as the location of a new Providence Public Schools freshman academy. (WJAR)
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Providence Public Schools is launching a freshman academy this fall.

Open to incoming Jorge Alvarez High School ninth graders and newcomer students, the pilot academy is meant to “ease the transition between middle school and high school,” the district said.

The academy will open in the district’s newcomer center at 425 Branch Ave.

"We can focus squarely on the ninth grade experience,” Superintendent Harrison Peters said. “Those students obviously will have the most academically rigorous lessons and learnings, but also the wraparound supports that we can focus on that community of learning: the social workers, psychologists, social services.”

Peters said the academy plans fall in line with the district’s state turnaround goals, which calls out the need to increase the percentage of ninth-graders on track for postsecondary success.

“We know when we get you through your ninth grade successfully, you have an exponentially higher chance of graduating high school,” Peters said.

According to state data, during the 2019-2020 school year, 556 students dropped off the city school system.

  • 14 Asian Pacific males
  • 48 Black males; 37 females
  • 37 white males; 36 females
  • 232 Hispanic males; 122 females
  • 10 multi-race males; 11 females
  • 51 males enrolled in Individual Education Programs; 12 females
  • 228 males enrolled in Free or Reduced Lunch Program; 154 females
  • 149 males considered Limited English Proficient; 50 females

Approximately half of the inaugural class will be students new to the United States who have had interrupted formal education.

“I don’t want to lose the point that our newcomers bring such an amazing experience, such an amazing linguistically, cultural, beautiful heritage all students should be exposed to,” Peters said.

Students enrolled in the academy will move to Alvarez High School for the remainder of high school. They will have opportunities to visit Alvarez throughout the school year.

“You remember the old school TV show ‘Cheers’ where everyone knows your name? That’s the theory,” Peters said. “It’s a ninth grade academy where everyone knows your name. We learn together, we play together. It also allows us to be very focused on supports. When you’re dealing with a larger campus, the challenges are just that. They are exacerbated.”

The Branch Avenue facility will undergo several upgrades, including the installation of an audio enhancement system in every classroom to support multilingual learners. The district will also add a gymnasium.

The district could not share how the academy will be staffed but noted no positions will be lost and said it will not be a “huge shuffle.” NBC 10 News has also requested the budget for the academy.

Tutoring and summer enrichment opportunities are also planned to support student achievement.

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