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Achievement First Selects Providence Sites for Charter School

The schools would serve students in Cranston as well as Providence, North Providence and Warwick.

Achievement First, the charter school operator in Cranston last year, announced today that it intends to renovate two former school buildings in Providence and open a charter school in that city, enrolling students from Cranston, Providence, North Providence and Warwick.

Achievement First said it responded to a city of Providence request for proposals for reuse of four shuttered school buildings, selecting two: Oliver Hazard Perry Middle School on Hartford Street and Edmund Flynn School on Blackstone Street.

Their plan is to launch two public elementary schools, the first opening in 2013 and the second the following year.

“The heart of any neighborhood is its schools, and Achievement First is grateful for the opportunity to submit this proposal,” said Reshma Singh, vice president of external relations at Achievement First. “If our proposal is accepted, we look forward to partnering with the mayor’s office and community leaders to ensure success. We’re eager to potentially revitalize vacant schools, partner with the community and, most importantly, provide an additional excellent public school option for Providence, Cranston, North Providence, and Warwick students and families.”

The charter school operator pledged to spend at least $5 million at each school “with additional investments as needed to create a high quality teaching and learning environment,” according to a release.

The schools would be leased for $1 per year plus capital improvements with a term proposed for Sept. 30 of this year to June 30 2015.

“Achievement First is hoping to make a significant investment in these communities and will work to ensure that our plans are accomplished in a cost-neutral outcome for the city. This is certainly something that can happen with the renovations we envision,” Singh said.

Achievement First became a household name in Cranston last year after its hotly-contested plans to open a school in Cranston sparked a vigorous public debate. Though the plans had some prominent supporters, including Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, the outcry from Cranston teachers, parents, and public school supporters against the proposal took center stage in this city, which has been dealing with consecutive years of painful school budget cuts. At a time when school officials said the district was cut to the bone, opponents of Achievement First thought the concept of the city hosting a charter school was outrageous, given that each Cranston student who attends the new school takes education dollars away from the public school district.

in support of public schools on the steps of Cranston High School East. Police had to close Park Avenue to handle the crowd.

Ultimately, the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education rejected Achievement First’s proposal for a school in Cranston. The board did, however, give preliminary approval for the opening of two Providence-based elementary schools.

The new plans for schools in Providence haven’t faced any significant resistance in Cranston, though there is lingering wariness.

Today, School Committee President Andrea Iannazzi visited 19 schools to welcome this year’s crop of teachers back to the district. One stop was at Garden City Elementary School. As a group of teachers ate their lunch, Iannazzi told the crowd that she can sense a renewed and uplifted energy this year. She noted that last year was tough for a variety of reasons and mentioned the charter school battle.

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