Blackstone Valley Prep finds a home in Pawtucket

Blackstone Valley Prep finds a home in Pawtucket

Staff of the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy mingle with guests at an open house last Wednesday in the organization's new Network Support Headquarters at 560 Mineral Spring Ave. in Pawtucket. (Valley Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET - The network support team for the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a trio of tuition-free public schools serving students in Pawtucket, Lincoln, Cumberland and Central Falls, has found a landing spot in Pawtucket.

A new 3,522-square-foot facility in the Lorraine Mills, at 560 Mineral Spring Ave., will essentially be the "district office" for the fast-growing educational organization. The move of Network Support Headquarters from 7 Fatima Drive in Cumberland represents Blackstone Valley Prep's first physical presence in Pawtucket.

Jeremy Chiappetta, executive director of Blackstone Valley Prep, told The Breeze that school administrators are "very excited" at the opportunity presented at their new location, especially after four years of having central office employees based out of schools.

There is "room to grow" here, said Chiappetta, with about 20 personnel working on everything from school curriculum to recruitment. The facility will offer a better layout and a more efficient way of doing things, said Chiappetta.

School officials held an open house at the new location last Wednesday, where everyone from Shea High School Principal Donald Miller, a father of a Blackstone Valley Prep student, to Lincoln Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond got a chance to view the new facilities.

The new location in Pawtucket is especially attractive because it was about half the price of space the organization was looking at in Cumberland, or about $6.47 per square foot, according to Chiappetta. The annual lease payment for 3,522 square feet is $22,800.

In keeping with Blackstone Valley Prep's practice, furnishings were purchased on the cheap, said Chiappetta.

"We attempt to be miserly so we can put every dollar we can back into the classroom," he said.

Jen LoPiccolo, director of external affairs for Blackstone Valley Prep, said school administrators are happy to finally be in Pawtucket, where they've wanted to be for a long time.

"I believe this is an important step for us as we now have a space in Pawtucket, a footprint here to say we're really committed to this community," she said.

Pawtucket will be among the communities considered when school officials are looking to add a high school in the next few years, said LoPiccolo.

According to administrators, Blackstone Valley Prep offers a quality public school choice to the families of Pawtucket, Central Falls, Lincoln and Cumberland. The schools currently service more than 1,000 "scholars" in grades K-8. A member of the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies network, Blackstone Valley Prep's mission is to put every scholar on a path to college.

In 2009, a group of nine teachers, two full-time staff, and several supporting staff launched Elementary School 1 at 7 Fatima Drive in Cumberland. In 2010, the school network launched its first middle school, which has since moved to Lincoln. Elementary 2 launched in 2011, eventually settling at the 7 Fatima Drive address. Elementary 1 is now located at 291 Broad St. in Cumberland, while Elementary 2 is still on Fatima Drive in Cumberland.

Blackstone Valley Prep has grown by 1,000 percent in just four years, according to administrators. In 2013, its three schools are home to 120 staff and 1,000 scholars, with sights set on growing to three elementary, three middle, and one high school.