BVP High School opens doors to students

BVP High School opens doors to students

Amy Fazekas, center, a social worker at Blackstone Valley Prep, helps direct students, including Hailey Viera, right, to their classrooms as students arrived Monday for the first day of classes at the new Blackstone Valley Prep High School. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

CUMBERLAND – Every inch of the new Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academies High School is laid out with educational and building efficiency in mind, say its leaders.

Students arrived at the school at 65 Macondray St. in the Valley Falls section of Cumberland for the first time on Monday, quickly settling into their new classrooms and shared spaces. Doors for BVP High School students will continue to open at the later start time of 8:30 a.m., reflecting emerging research about teens and sleep time.

Michael DeMatteo, chief operations officer at the school, gave a tour of the $10 million construction project last week, even as workers scrambled to put finishing touches on most of it prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The school’s new gymnasium still needs some work, and it will be finished up as classes proceed.

The school was designed to function as more of a collegiate facility, said DeMatteo, true to the school’s goal of preparing every student for college.

“We are really only focused on working hard, preparing our scholars for their best match colleges, universities, and careers, and then repeating this each year,” said DeMatteo. “We will reassess every year to ensure we are getting better.”

The school was originally intended to be complete by the start of the 2017-2018 school year. BVP High previously leased space at the former St. Joan of Arc Church.

The 40,000-square-foot facility itself cost $10 million, but once all hard and soft costs are factored in, including land acquisition, the final tab is $15 million.

BVP Prep High School will function without an auditorium, said DeMatteo, as such an amenity was simply too expensive. Both the gym and cafeteria will function as auditorium-type spaces. Most classrooms are located on the second floor. Also on the second floor is an innovation lab, or what is essentially the school’s library. Civic Builders also installed flexible workspaces throughout the building.

“It’s a pretty compact building,” said DeMatteo.

BVP will lease the building from Civic Builders, a New York-based company specializing in charter school construction, with the option to buy after a few years.

BVP leaders couldn’t develop the high school until they reached full enrollment of 325 high school students, said DeMatteo, also due to financial constraints.

About 60 percent of the high school enrollment is made up of students from Pawtucket and Central Falls, and the remainder are from Cumberland and Lincoln. The high school is trending more urban, as some suburban students are choosing to migrate back to their high schools after attending BVP through 8th grade.

Four rooms at the new high school will make up the STEAM wing of the building, including an art room, two science labs, and a “maker space” for such activities as robotics.

Enhancing functionality, doors and walls can be opened to host competitions or other larger functions.

The school has one athletic field – a soccer field located behind the facility. Other schools in the BVP network will share the gym, which has six basketball hoops.

Bold dashes and stripes of color contrast with a mostly white and brightly lit interior. The school’s five core PRIDE values, perseverance, respect, integrity, discipline and enthusiasm, are incorporated in the hallways, as is its mission “to prepare every scholar for success in college and the world beyond.” (Students at BVP are called scholars.)

BVP High School has a total of about 41 staff members, including administrators and support staff, and 325 scholars, for a ratio of one student for every eight or so staff members. There are 32 teaching staff members, for a teacher to scholar ratio of one to 10.

Cumberland’s non-charter public schools have a student to teacher ratio of about 15 to one.

Across the BVP network, 10.42 percent of students are on an individualized education plan, or IEP, and that percentage drops to 9.91 percent at the high school level. Because BVP includes students with special needs in standard classrooms, the new high school really didn’t need many special features for those students, said DeMatteo.

Funding for the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academies continues to be a topic of contention for the schools’ sending districts, particularly in Cumberland, where the school district paid out $3.9 million in tuition for students attending the charter schools, up from $125,000 in 2008.

BVP, which has maintained consistently high academic scores, was started by former Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee, who now serves as lieutenant governor of Rhode Island. Local mayors lead the board of directors for the charter schools, which receive tuition from Cumberland for each local student who goes there.

The network of schools has 1,800 students across six schools.

Jeffrey Wright, staff support member, welcomes students Monday at the new building on Macondray Street, in Cumberland.
Fawas Onifade, right, a junior, points out a picture of a classmate to Jarell Carlos, a sophomore. The pictures are hanging on the wall to greet the students as they enter the new high school building.
History teacher Tim Olivo greets students as they prepare to work on their American history lessons in Blackstone Valley Prep High School’s new building, which opened for classes on Monday.


Our kids are grown and out of the house. When we were young parents, at the urging and insistence of all of mankind, my wife and I decided to make a promise to them, and us, to our family, that they would all go to college and get a degree. NO DISCUSSION! Neither my wife nor I had that promise and we had since been told about all of the opportunities that we both had missed…or thought we had missed. And, even without a college degree, both my wife and I had managed to gain employment and raised our kids in Cumberland, all while living indoors! Today, all our kids have college degrees and are gainfully employed in various roles, and except for our oldest, are working in industries not closely related to their degrees. Unfortunately, the exorbitant cost of these degrees wasn’t fully understood until after the fact. They say “hindsight is 20/20” for a reason. It’s because everyone knows what will happen, after it happens. And, due to this dire situation, their salaries, while respectable for their efforts, has not afforded any of them the luxury to think past the end of the month. While the pride of accomplishment is real for all of us, the anxiety of an immense financial burden has begun to drain the entrepreneurial spirit from their young minds and caused my wife and me a certain level of guilt…and, it’s not going away anytime soon. We now understand that education is just another “big business”, and they want your money. No matter what they tell you, your child’s education is not their first priority. Like most sales-oriented businesses, they will say and do anything to get you to sign up. This effort has been expanded to include active recruitment in the high schools, as this article clearly indicates. Young parents: Before drinking their Kool-Aid, please consider the possible (lack of) return on your investment of time and money to send your child to college. In spite of what they tell you, there are viable options for future success other than saddling your child with a lifetime payment.

Going thru the same with my children no truer words have been spoken. Huge money grab, and years of work to pay off for something that may never be used. The saying is God willing I will live long enough to pay off my student loans.

This building was built on property that borders a "Superfund" site. I question the true motives of the developer, as well as the Mayoral Academies. It's not all about giving families "choices". Charter school "Education" has become a big business to invest in, that is...for those wealthy enough to have access to private equity investments (hedge funds,MLP's, etc...). There's lots of $$$ to be made @ the expense of the "needy" and low-income population!

In a few years the enrollment will be 100% urban. The kids from Cumberland and Lincoln will take there money back to there town schools when there parents realize that this is not what they signed up for