Construction starts for new charter school

By: Maria Allard | Madison - Park News | Published March 13, 2013

 Construction began Feb. 4 on the site of the closed Target store on Dequindre Road in Warren to build a new school, the Success Mile Charter Academy.

Construction began Feb. 4 on the site of the closed Target store on Dequindre Road in Warren to build a new school, the Success Mile Charter Academy.

WARREN — A Florida-based company has purchased the vacant Target store on Dequindre Road, between 11 Mile and 12 Mile roads, and will house a new charter school in its place. 

Construction began Feb. 4 to build the Success Mile Charter Academy at the closed Target store located at 27300 Dequindre Road. Red Apple Development, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, purchased the building for $2.25 million. The new school, authorized by Grand Valley State University, is set to open in September 2013.

Summit Construction Management is handling the construction of the new academy, which will be about 104,000-square feet in size, and crews plan to include plenty of natural light in the new structure.

The Success Mile Charter Academy is its own school district with a governing board. It is the first Charter Schools USA-managed school to come to Warren. The company, also based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., currently manages 48 schools in seven states, making Michigan its eighth state. Those associated with the project are enthused about Success Mile’s future.

“We believe we are accomplishing some important initiatives with this new school,” board President Kurmell Knox said in a prepared statement. “First, we’re providing a high-quality educational choice for parents and students. As a public charter school, all students are eligible to apply, and there is no tuition. Second, we are providing an educational environment that will foster a life-long love of learning. Third, we are contributing to an economic recovery in an area that has struggled.”

At capacity, the new academy will house 1,415 students. Students from all communities, not just Warren, are welcome.

In addition to 49 classrooms, Success Mile will include two science rooms, two computer rooms, two art rooms, one music room, a 4,200-square foot cafeteria, and a 30,000-square foot indoor recreation area.

According to an academy press release, the average economic impact to each community in which the CSUSA opens a school is “significant.”

“The initial facility impact adds approximately $11.5 million to the community and, when fully enrolled, adds approximately 75 high-quality jobs and contributes nearly $7 million annually through sustained economic activity,” the press release stated.

Paula Swanson, education coordinator with CSUSA, said the new academy will offer the core curriculum, including math, science, history and English language arts.  

“We also offer technology courses, music, art, PE and world languages,” Swanson said. The CSUSA charter schools also offer after-school enrichment classes, such as cooking or pottery.

Each student is given a “personal learning plan.” By about the third week of school, students undergo a baseline testing process to determine where they are, academically. Each quarter, the students, in collaboration with their teachers, write down their educational goals and work toward accomplishing those goals.

“It’s a very strategic approach,” Swanson said. “We’re not teaching to the average or to the middle, but to the individual.” Free tutoring is offered for students who need additional help in reading and math.

The school will open with a kindergarten through sixth-grade curriculum. Swanson said seventh-grade will be added the following year and then eighth-grade the year after that. The format is designed to help students transition into middle school.

“We find, if we grow them up with our school, they adapt much better,” Swanson said. “They’re used to the discipline procedures. We are able to maximize those years.”

While the academy is a public school, it does differ in some ways from a traditional public school.

“We are accountable for all the state and federal mandates, yet we only receive 65 percent of funding of the traditional school,” Swanson said, adding there is less bureaucracy and more flexibility within the charter school. Also, charter academy students wear uniforms.

“By using red or blue, it adds to the level of security in the classroom,” Swanson said. School officials also feel it cuts down on competition, as well, as far as students having to decide what to wear to class.

Parents of charter school students within CSUSA are required to volunteer 20 hours a week at the school.

“The idea is to get the family involved as much as possible,” Swanson said. “Research shows, if a parent is involved, the kids have a better opportunity to be successful.”

A newer Target store is located on Dequindre Road, north of the old location.

Success Mile Charter Academy applicants will be accepted online at www.successmilecharter.org or in person at the school’s enrollment office from 4-6 p.m. at 27130 Dequindre Road. For more information regarding enrollment, call (586) 207-7704.