Lowell Public Schools Doors Open 2016-2017 - First Wednesday of every month at 10am
Career Academy at the Molloy School
This past Wednesday marked the first tour date in a 10 month Doors Open series, an effort by the Lowell Public School system to increase transparency and community involvement. The schedule for each school’s tour is at the end of this article. This month, we visited the Molloy, Bailey, and Daley Schools. I'll cover the Molloy School in this post. Check here for the Bailey and here for the Daley.
I liked the idea of the school tours because my son is a student in a Lowell school, and I want to get to know the system better. I'm also a photographer and a curious person. I brought a camera along, and I decided to try something new and took notes so I could share what I learned.
Wednesday's tour started at 10am at 155 Merrimack Street at the School Department - which is now in the Bon Marche building. I went upstairs to the 4th floor and got checked in on the new Raptor system, using my state ID (driver's license). The admin gave everyone an ID sticker to wear, and each school checked to make sure we had it before beginning the tour. A big yellow bus took us to visit the Career Academy at the Molloy School.
Principal Margo Ferrick (who’s also Principal at the Cardinal O’Connell School) shared some of the history, current programs, and upcoming additions at the Career Academy. Launched in 2013, the LHS Career Academywas housed at the high school and moved last year to the Malloy School at 125 Smith Street. Designed as an alternative education program for high school students who have "struggled academically and behaviorally", the school serves 90 students full-time and offers part-time enrollment as well. Margo says these kids have complicated lives, and they all need something more than a traditional school environment can give them.
A few years ago, these kids would have been sent out to a 45-day punitive program, before being allowed back into the high school. LPS found that 65% of students at these earlier alternative programs did not ever graduate or obtain a GED or equivalent. Margo called the programs a gateway for dropout. So, she co-wrote a Gateway Cities grant to the Governor, received a planning grant, and worked with Middlesex Community College and UMass Lowell to create a program that better meets the needs of these students. Similar to an in-district charter school, there is autonomy for the school and the kids. The program does positive intervention and support, not punitive action.
The Career Academy at the Malloy School partners with organizations like Catie's Closet, Community Teamwork Inc's YouthBuild, and Mill City Grows. Students get credit for learning life skills and job skills, or can receive additional services through these programs. While we were standing in the garden outside, 4 teens came out full of smiles and climbed into the YouthBuild van to go and learn construction for 4 hours.
Val Snowdon from Mill City Grows was there to tell us about their work with the Career Academy to supply grant-funded raised-bed gardens. The students worked with staff to design the layout, choose which vegetables to grow, and filled the 5 original beds with 17 cubic yards of soil. With additional grant funds, the garden will be expanding to the lot next to the Lincoln School and provide 40 new beds! Food Corps Service Member Moustapha Touré helps students with programming, and volunteers up to 8 hours a week at 3 different schools.
What happens with all the veggies? A full service community school grant was received, and the Molloy is developing a hub for the neighborhood by building out a former boys' bathroom into a laboratory kitchen.The kitchen will house lessons for Biology and Chemistry, and will hold cooking classes for both the students and community members. One of the programs being developed is called Arts and Apps, which will showcase artwork and student-made appetizers. Folks on the tour sounded excited about the Garden to Table science/biology class - I know it makes me happy. The school and administration is doing all it can to pave the way for an integrated garden/school curriculum.
The Molloy School is an old building. It still has glass fuses! The windows are mostly opaque, and two had to be replaced for the lab kitchen. The city is responsible for the plumbing build-out in the kitchen, and is waiting for 2 full days to become available to finish the work.
The cafeteria serves food made off-site by city contractor Aramark. As the rules stand now, local garden food can be used in taste tests, but not in meals. In the cafeteria, there's a beautiful mural on the long wall of the room that was designed and painted by students and artists. As Margo pointed out, there's not a mark on it.
The Doors Open tours of Lowell Public Schools will take place every First Wednesday at 10am. Arrive early at 155 Merrimack Street, 4th floor, to get checked in. Bring your photo ID. Please call or email to RSVP so they can reserve the right amount of transportation - email@example.com or 978-674-2162.
9/7/16 Molloy Career Academy, Bailey, Daley Schools
10/5/16 Sullivan, J.G. Pyne, Leblanc Schools
11/2/16 Butler, Shaughnessy, Cardinal O’Connell Schools
12/7/16 Peter W. Reilly, Stoklosa Schools
1/4/17 Bartlett Community Partnership, Robinson Schools
2/8/17 Christa McAuliffe, Murkland, Greenhalge Schools
3/8/17 Moody School, E.N. Rogers STEM Academy
4/5/17 McAvinnue, Pawtucketville Memorial, Dr. An Wang Schools
5/3/17 Morey, Abraham Lincoln Schools
6/7/17 George Washington, Laura E. Lee Schools