By: Isabel Medlock
A SLA middle school is set to open for the fifth grade next September. It’s based of off the SLA high schools and will be an inquiry and project based school. The SLA middle school has partnerships with Drexel University, Powel Elementary, and Inquiry Schools. There will be 90 students per grade.
“SLA-MS will have the same core values, dedication to inquiry driven, project based, technology infused education [and] advisory program [as SLA high schools],” said Tim Boyle, the founding principal of the new SLA middle school. “The philosophy of SLA and SLA-MS will be one and the same.”
Similarly to the SLA high schools, students will have to do benchmarks. To make the process of benchmarks more doable for the younger students the benchmarks will be more structured than the high school level benchmarks. As the students get older the benchmarks will become less structured. The middle school will also be using the same grading system of 95, 85, 75, 65, and 55.
Use of technology will also be an important facet of the middle school. The middle school students will have the same access to technology as the high school students do although younger students will not be able to take laptops home.
Unlike the SLA high schools, the middle school will be a neighborhood school so there will be no academic criteria or interview needed to be admitted. If there are unfilled seats students from other parts of the city will be selected through a lottery. Preference will be given to students who live in Mantua and students living in the 19104 zip code will be given preference in the lottery.
There will be no official preference for SLA middle school students applying to SLA high schools but according to Boyle they will be more prepared for SLA high schools and will be better able to demonstrate this ability than students from other middle schools.
To develop the SLA middle school, Boyle has been working with the faculty and principals of both SLA high schools. He attends professional development and any major school events, such as Back to School Night and Summer Institute.
“Everyone has been more than accommodating and it has been a real joy,” said Boyle.
Drexel University will be providing the funding for a new building that would house both the SLA middle school and Powel Elementary.
“We’re [..] hoping to be able to build the actual school that the middle school and the elementary school would be in so we purchased the University City high school site and we’re working very hard to identify the finances that would allow us to build a building,” said Lucy Kerman, vice provost for University and Community Partnerships at Drexel.
Drexel has been involved with Powel for several years. When Drexel heard that SLA was hoping to open a middle school they wanted to get involved as well.
“Drexel has been involved with our local elementary school, Powel School, which is a school that teaches Kindergarten through fourth grade,” said Kerman. “We thought that the partnership with Chris and SLA was a perfect fit for Drexel and a perfect fit for Powel.”
Penn Alexander, another school created through partnership between the school district and a university, receives a stipend per student from Penn. Drexel will not be providing a stipend to the SLA middle school.
“The university is not a wealthy university[…] and we’re not in a position to provide an operating subsidy,” said Kerman.
Drexel will be providing teacher support and will assist with curriculum development through its School of Education. Drexel is also hoping to provide after-school programming and mini courses.
“I think what’s really important is that this is a school that everybody would feel comfortable sending their children to,” said Kerman. “It’s high quality, it’s a neighborhood school, it should be for a diverse community, and whether it’s a administrator or a long time resident or a family living in the shelters this is a school to support families in this neighborhood. It is our intention that it be a school that attracts everybody and provides all children with an education.”