PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Achievement First, which is set to open its first Rhode Island charter school in September, will spend approximately $10 million to renovate the vacant Oliver Hazard Perry Middle School on Hartford Avenue, according to Reshma Singh, the organization's vice president of external relations.
The charter management organization, which operates 22 schools between New York and Connecticut, was at the center of a heated education reform debate in 2011 when it applied to open a mayoral academy in Cranston. The state Board of Regents ended up rejecting the application, but later supported the plan to open in Providence.
"We're excited that, as we expected, there is tremendous demand for the school," Singh said.
Singh said Achievement First will use a combination of local and national private and nonprofit philanthropy to pay for "remediation and renovations" over the next three to four years at the school, which was closed in 2010. As a mayoral academy, the school will draw students from Providence, North Providence, Cranston and Warwick.
In exchange, the organization will rent the school from the city at a rate of $1 per year for 20 years. The lease will be discussed by the City Council next week.
Achievement First, which will open a second elementary school in Providence in 2014, is known for its longer schools days and has produced high test scores in many of its schools, but critics have argued that opening new schools will pull money and resources away from the city's low-performing traditional public schools.
Still, Mayor Angel Taveras has embraced the organization, even pushing for it be included on a list of schools provided to parents registering their children. Spokesman David Ortiz called that level of partnership "unprecedented" and said Taveras supports informing parents about all public school options during the registration process.
In Achievement First's case, more the 350 students have applied for 176 slots. A lottery to fill the positions will be held Mar. 1.
Ortiz said the city is excited to partner with the school.
"Mayor Taveras supports Achievement First's plan to use the Perry School and we look forward to the Council process," Ortiz said. "This is a significant investment that Achievement First plans to make in that building and in our community. And we look forward working with them."