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New Manchester charter school plans to open at site of former St. Joseph Regional Junior High School

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

December 06. 2017 10:59PM


MANCHESTER — A charter school organization is seeking out traditionally underserved children such as immigrants, low-income families and English-language learners to help fill a 144-student school in the downtown.

Kreiva Academy Public Charter School plans to open a grade 6-12 school at the old St. Joseph Regional Junior High School building, located at Pine and Bridge streets.

Kreiva will host an information meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the school. Other meetings are scheduled for two or three times a week between now and mid-January at libraries, youth organizations and fire stations in the city.

Print and web materials are already available in English, Spanish and French, and translators have been contacted to expand material into other languages, such as Arabic, said Michelle Mathieu, founder and program director for Kreiva.

She previously worked in administration at Polaris Charter School on the West Side of Manchester, according to her biography on the Kreiva website, www.kreiva.org.

A $150,000 from the Boston-based Barr Foundation requires Kreiva to reach out to underserved populations, Mathieu said.

“We see it as our role to get to them because every child deserves these opportunities,” said Mathieu, who has a master’s degree in education.

According to school material, every student at Kreiva will have an Individual Growth Plan. Classes will focus on topic-based modules — for example, the Flint water crisis — where students will learn in cross-disciplinary fields such as mathematics and statistics, English, chemistry and medicine.

The school is modeled after the Expeditionary Learning system, a system that is working in about 160 schools across the country, including Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine.

This year, 935 Manchester students are enrolled in charter schools, according to Manchester School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas. About 340 of those students are enrolled in online classes through the VLACs charter school and may not be full-time charter school students, Vargas said.

Vargas said he recognizes that every parent has the right to send their children to charter schools, but he said Manchester schools are good schools that are poised to be great. He mentioned the STEM academy at West High School, where students explore career opportunities at nearby Catholic Medical Center.

“There’s no question in my mind we could be the best urban district in New England if we work together,” Vargas said.

Mathieu said Kreiva will not be part of the Expeditionary Learning Network, but it will rely heavily on the EL model for character development and experienced-based learning.

The school plans to open with 11 teachers. Diane Creel, who has a master’s in education, will be dean of curriculum and instruction. Mathieu expects most students who will enroll will be sixth- and ninth-graders.

The school also has a $223,000 startup grant from the New Hampshire Charter School Program.

The St. Joseph Regional Junior High School vacated the building in 2010, and Manchester developer Tom Deblois acquired it in 2016 with plans to turn it into an office building.

Mathieu said a current tenant, the Neurodevelopmental Institute of New Hampshire, is relocating. A child care treatment facility and the International Institute of New England will also share the building, she said.

The school is thrilled to have the use of a former school building, which includes a gymnasium and science labs, Mathieu said.

“We are over the moon about that opportunity,” she siad.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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