Beacon Preparatory School first open house

Last night, Scholar attended the first open house for Beacon Preparatory School, a public charter middle school opening in Plymouth next fall.

Beacon Prep is sponsored by Friends of Ascension, building on the success of an existing Friends of Ascension charter elementary school (Beacon Academy), and based on Core Knowledge, Saxon Math, daily Spanish language instruction, and character development.

One of the board members noted that Core Knowledge is the same curriculum being used by that school just up I-494 from Beacon Prep: the highly regarded Providence Academy. Of course, Beacon Prep will be charging much lower tuition (zero), and its campus lacks PA's look-and-feel of Colonial Williamsburg!

Both the lower Beacon Academy and the upper Beacon Prep are housed in the former Beacon Heights Elementary School. The building was recently upgraded with new heating and air conditioning, and a wireless computer network. It has the sturdy, traditional feel of a post-World War II school building, complete with a hardwood floor gym and those indestructible terazzo floors I recognize from my salad days in the 1970s.

The Beacon Prep board of directors is made up of parents and community members (and soon teachers, after they are hired). Some of the directors are parents of current Beacon Academy pupils. Parent volunteerism is expected to be as robust as it is for Beacon Academy. The startup coordinator is Jordan Ford, a longtime family friend and an experienced private, public, and charter school administrator. Other than homeschooling, this is the ultimate in local control, truly a community-run school.

Last night's open house was attended by around thirty parents and a few prospective members of Beacon Prep's first sixth grade class. Ford provided a detailed, rapid fire PowerPoint presentation, which revealed that Beacon Prep is on track for a successful fall 2006 opening. A grades 6-12 charter is in hand, grant money secured, staffing underway, facility being readied, startup coordinator and board of directors in place, and classrooms being stocked with everything from books to computers. The first direct mailing to prospective students is complete, and the first student applications have been accepted.

Some of Beacon Prep's operational details are to be determined, based on the needs of its future students: transportation, sports opportunities, enrichment (Destination Imagination and Continental Math League were mentioned as possibilities), and possible expansion to grade 12. Special education services will be available as in any other public school.

Ford said that about six applications were accepted before last night's initial open house. Beacon Prep plans on two sections of sixth grade for 2006-2007, with about 26 students in each section, for a total of around 52. After the application deadline of March 17, 2006, further applications will be put on a waiting list, and a lottery held after the enrollment limit is reached.

This year's fifth grader parents who are looking for an affordable alternative to integrated math, lack of classic literature or world languages, large class sizes, and the bureaucracy of a large suburban school district should check out Beacon Preparatory School. The next open houses are Tuesday, March 7 and Saturday, March 11.