Academic opportunities for the underserved

The Academy of Math and Science is expanding to Glendale, where it is set to provide academic opportunities to an underserved community.

In mid-December, Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, other city leaders and approximately 500 community members attended the groundbreaking of Academy of Math and Science (AMS) Glendale.

“Really, what I saw [at the groundbreaking] just corroborated the reason why we’re going there. You have lots of motivated parents who just want some more option for their kids,” Kim Chayka, AMS CEO, said.

The 2016 Revitalizing Glendale’s Midtown District report indicated that the area’s path to success will be built by improving low-performing schools, among other factors. With the addition of AMS, Glendale is doing one better. Rather than waiting for existing schools to improve, they’re welcoming an already proven high-quality school model looking to open its doors to more than a thousand new students.

The Academy of Math and Science (AMS) charter system has offered students access to high-quality education and unique approaches to learning, and it is set to offer underserved students in Glendale the same.

AMS is comprised of five campuses, including the Glendale location. It operates in the greater Phoenix area and Tucson. It is ranked among the top-performing charter networks and one of its campuses was named the 2016 Charter School of the Year by the Arizona Charter Schools Association.

Chayka said that according to Glendale’s Office of Economic Development, “as soon as we committed ourselves and started new construction over- they hadn’t seen new construction over there in years. But, as soon as we committed over there, they had three new housing projects.”

High-quality schools and a reliable workforce attract employers and create jobs, essentially providing opportunities for the underserved and the community overall.

“It’s important to me that we continue to keep qualified workers and it means our students need to be inspired at an early age to try the STEM subjects,” Mayor Weiers said at the groundbreaking. “If they can visualize their path forward, then we would love for them to stay here in Glendale because we have many STEM jobs right here.”

In the long-term, students who are prepared to take on the workforce may contribute to the development in the area one day.

Chayka said, “a lot of these kids are tied to their community. Community is really big… These kids are then going into these fields and then bringing back their knowledge into these communities.”

He said, “it reflects the process of better development going on in the area, which leads to more people feeling comfortable building their businesses there.”

Chayka explained that his team conducted an analysis of K-8 schools near the location of the AMS Glendale.

He said AMS is unique to many of the schools in that area because of its extended day instruction. The nearby schools AMS analyzed offered a seven-hour school day, but AMS Glendale’s school day is one hour longer.

“We have an eight-hour school day for all of our kids, K through eight,” Chayka said. “Extended day for us means we have instruction going from 7:55 [a.m.] to 3:55 p.m.”

AMS is also unique in that it consistently offers tutoring and addresses high-achieving students other than with G.A.T.E. (Gifted and Talented Education) programs.

“Our students are expected to perform at above grade level at some point,” Chayka said. “So, we meet them where they are at their current time and once they’re at grade level, they’re actually one grade level ahead.”

Access to high-quality education is a priority for AMS, but it also values its efforts to keep students and faculty safe.

“We have a really good safety program on campus where we have cameras outfitted in parameter of the school and common areas,” Chayka explained. “We have a secure entry and configuration for all the schools where there’s a single point of entry, where entry into the school is key fobbed so that nobody can get in unless they’re buzzing the front.”

AMS Glendale will serve students Kindergarten through eighth grade with 1,100 students in its first year but plans to eventually serve 1,400. It will open Fall 2019.

Sierra Ciaramella

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