Michigan Math and Science Academy leaves Hazel Park

Charter school moves to Center Line to expand

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 13, 2012

 Standing in front of the new Center Line location for the Michigan Math and Science Academy is MMSA spokesperson Michelle Carion, network administrator Isa Kuyuldar, director Cafer Cengiz and spokesperson Elona Uzuni.

Standing in front of the new Center Line location for the Michigan Math and Science Academy is MMSA spokesperson Michelle Carion, network administrator Isa Kuyuldar, director Cafer Cengiz and spokesperson Elona Uzuni.

Photo by Edward Osinski

HAZEL PARK — It wasn’t long ago that the Michigan Math and Science Academy came to Hazel Park, but in that period of time the academy has grown so much that it can no longer meet demand at the current building. Seeking more room so they can effectively double the number of grades they serve, MMSA administrators decided to relocate to Center Line this summer.

MMSA first opened at 99 E. Woodward Heights during the 2009-10 school year, serving fifth- through 10th-grade. The charter school was started by Concept Schools, an educational company that will soon have 29 charter schools across the Midwest.

The Hazel Park location was originally a Catholic school building, which MMSA leased for three years. With the lease set to expire, administrators could’ve renewed it, but the 240 students they currently have are pushing the limit, requiring a mobile unit to supplement the packed two-story building.

The new accommodations in Center Line will be the former St. Clements grade school at 8155 Ritter, which includes three floors, adequate parking space, a baseball field, a 68,000-square-foot main building and a 30,000-square-foot activities building.

Here MMSA will expand, adding kindergarten through fourth-grade and 11th-grade during the 2012-13 school year, and 12th-grade during the 2013-14 school year. The academy lost some kids in transition, with 200 of the current 240 students making the leap. But another 110 students have been accepted, with an additional 100 going through the application process. The academy is targeting 460 students next year, and in time 700 students, all while maintaining a low students-to-teacher ratio, with fewer than 25 kids per class.

“It’s very exciting,” said Michelle Carion, MMSA spokesperson. “Everyone’s anxious to get started in their new classrooms. We had adequate space before with the number of students we had in the old building, but we wanted to keep our small classes and the number of students growing, so we had to move.”

College prep is a key focus for the MMSA. The school specializes in math, science and technology, but teaches all subjects. Students consistently perform well, thanks in part to free tutoring available after school before extracurricular activities.

According to the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress, which tests more than four million students nationwide, 79 percent of MMSA students meet or exceed the growth target in math, while 72 percent hit the mark in reading. The national average for math and reading is around 50 percent.

As a charter school, MMSA is held accountable by its authorizer, Grand Valley State University, and the Michigan Department of Education. It also answers to the parents, who could always take their kids elsewhere. MMSA is a tuition-free school with enrollment open to the public, with no discrimination toward low- or high-performing students.

To learn more about what MMSA has to offer, the public is invited to the parking lot party the MMSA will be host this summer at the new location from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26. Families can meet staff and enjoy free food, live music and free activities for the kids, including an inflatable bounce house and rides.

Cafer Cengiz, MMSA director, said the change of scenery will bring with it many new opportunities for the school.

“It’s a big building,” Cengiz said. “Three science labs, two computer labs, a great gym, a separate cafeteria, and the baseball field, which we did not have in our current building. And Center Line looks like a great neighborhood. The previous director of the (St. Clements) school, the principal before it closed the last seven years, is very impressed with us and has been spreading the word in Center Line. People are excited about the school, and we plan to meet with them.”

Cengiz said their time in Hazel Park was a great experience.

“It’s a good city, with people who are cooperative and helpful,” Cengiz said. “We’re sorry to leave Hazel Park, but unfortunately there is no building in the city that can accommodate this growth.

“In terms of growing, our intention was to always add more grades,” he said. “As the kids stay with us longer, they perform better, and it’s hard to take an 11th-grader from one school to another and put them through that change. This is why we’re expanding.”

The Michigan Math and Science Academy will soon be located at 8155 Ritter in Center Line, but can currently be reached at (248) 808-6914 or by emailing office@mmsaonline.org.