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Holyoke Public Schools Media Center

Middle School Redesign Family Night 2018

Holyoke Public Schools announces the opening of two new middle schools
as part of reimagining middle school for all students

Holyoke, Massachusetts – On March 6th, Holyoke Public Schools announced plans to move forward with redesigning the middle school experience by opening two new middle schools in Fall 2018.

Holyoke’s vision is a pathway for every student. “We are designing multiple pathways in which all students graduate prepared to excel in college, career and community leadership,” said Dr. Stephen Zrike Jr., Receiver/Superintendent, Holyoke Public Schools (HPS).

“For years, parents and teachers have wanted to move away from the current K-8 model,” said Mayor Alex Morse. “Thanks to this innovative approach, the Holyoke Public Schools will begin to provide a true middle school experience for Holyoke students as they prepare to move into high school and eventually college and careers. I look forward to welcoming the incoming students at the new schools this fall.”

The Holyoke STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – Academy will offer students highly engaging, hands-on learning that promotes strong problem solving and communication skills, which are needed in school and in all occupations. The Holyoke STEM Academy will have a strong connection to the two science-themed Linked Learning Academies at Holyoke High School. The Holyoke STEM Academy, co-located at the Holyoke High School – South Campus (formerly Dean Technical High School), will serve 250-300 students in grades 6-8. Ms. KatieAnne DeMars will be the Holyoke STEM Academy Principal.

“Ms. DeMars is a strong school leader, with significant knowledge and expertise in understanding what it takes to run a highly effective school in Holyoke and implement a well-rounded educational experience for students, with a heavy emphasis in science and mathematics,” said Zrike.

Veritas Prep Holyoke will also open with 130-150 students in grade 5, growing to serve 515-600 students in grades 5-8 when operating at full capacity. “Veritas is one of the highest performing schools in Massachusetts and has a proven track record in Western Massachusetts,” added Zrike.

The most recent MCAS data that shows Veritas Prep Charter School (VPCS), a public school on the south end of Springfield, ranks second in the Commonwealth for math student growth percentiles (SGP) and fifth for English language arts (ELA). Additionally, more than 70% of Veritas 8th grade students met or exceeded expectations in ELA and Math, far above the statewide average of less than 50%. Additionally, VPCS parents are highly satisfied with their child’s education. More than 90% of parents agree that the school provides their child with the necessary skills to succeed, that teachers are easily accessible, and that the school is safe.

Veritas Prep Holyoke will be managed by Friends of Veritas Preparatory Charter School (Veritas), a non-profit organization that supports the mission of VPCS. Veritas will report to Dr. Zrike, and employees of Veritas Prep Holyoke will be HPS employees. Mr. Rue Ratray, who is a principal in residence with Veritas Prep and brings experience as a teacher leader in Lawrence, MA, will be the Veritas Prep Holyoke Principal. The school will be co-located with Peck Middle School on Northampton Street, yet will operate as a separate school.

“We need to continue to dramatically and urgently increase the quality of education received by HPS students,” continued Zrike. “Collaborating with proven providers is part of our turnaround plan. A significant advantage of partnering with an in-district school management organization is to bring additional capacity and resources into the system. We were incredibly selective in our decision to bring Veritas into Holyoke, as we set a high bar for excellence,” explains Dr. Zrike.

These new middle school configurations complement the P3, Personalized Pathways Program, which is in its second year of operation at Peck Middle School. P3 provides a college and career preparatory curriculum through an online personalized learning platform and weekly mentoring with a teacher to ensure that students develop the habits and skills required to be successful. P3 is based off the Summit Public Schools’ personalized learning model and is supported by OurSchools, a MA-based non-profit organization.

For Fall 2018, the students attending Holyoke STEM Academy will be the rising 6th-8th-grade students from E.N. White and Morgan, and the students attending Veritas Prep Holyoke will be the rising 5th-grade students from Kelly and Morgan, as well as a small number of students from Peck’s functional program. Accordingly, Morgan school will transition to a PK-4th-grade school. Kelly will become a PK-4th grade and 6th-8th-grade school for the 2018-19 school year, eventually transitioning to a PK-4th-grade school by SY21-22.