Schools Looking at New Site for Chelsea Opportunity Academy and Literacy Program

Nearly six years after starting the process, the school district is close to finding a new home for its Chelsea Opportunity Academy and the Intergenerational Literacy Program.

Currently, the Chelsea Opportunity Academy (COA) uses classrooms at Chelsea High School, and the Intergenerational Literacy Program (ILP) does the same at the Early Learning Center.

The school administration is currently in the final stages of selecting a potential site that would combine the two programs in one location, and also free up classroom space at the high school and the Early Learning Center.

The two locations that have been identified are a 10-year lease option for 15,000 square feet on two floors of a commercial building, and a purchase option for a 16,000 square foot former church building. If the school district moves forward with the purchase option, it would need the approval of the city council, according to Monica Lamboy, the district’s finance director.

At last week’s school committee meeting, Lamboy gave an overview of the COA and the ILP, as well as the history of the search for new homes for the programs.

“The Chelsea Opportunity Academy is Chelsea’s first new alternative school in recent years,” said Lamboy. “It opened in the fall of 2018 with 50 students.”

The COA is focused on students who could possibly drop out of high school, such as those who are working, supporting families, or may struggle in a traditional high school, said Lamboy. The school offers a flexible schedule and is designed to meet the needs of its population, she added.

Currently, there are 150 students enrolled in the COA.

“They physically occupy six classrooms in Chelsea High School and they could theoretically expand to 175 students if we could find space and capacity,” said Lamboy.

The ILP provides classes in English as a Second Language, primarily to adults, and also offers high school equivalency diploma programs. In addition to the classes for adults, it also provides childcare for the students taking the classes.

“They currently occupy three classrooms at the Early Learning Center during the day, and in the evening when they expand, they are in the hallways and the cafeteria,” said Lamboy.

Due to the lack of space for the ILP, Lamboy said there is a two-year waitlist to get into the program.

By moving to a new, centralized location for the two programs, the district would be able to potentially expand the COA and the ILP, as well as open up space for students at the Early Learning Center and the high school, Lamboy said.

A space needs study done almost five years ago determined that the COA would need eight classrooms plus administrative space, while the ILP would need at least three classrooms, as well as a dedicated pre-kindergarten classroom and administrative space.

Around the same time, Lamboy said the district also began looking at potential locations for the programs, first looking at city-owned properties.

In addition, the district also issued a handful of requests for proposals looking for space over the past several years.

“The exciting news is that this February, we did receive two proposals,” said Lamboy. “Because there were two competitive proposals, we do have to take them through the same process to fairly look at both.”

The next step in the process is for the schools to make a formal recommendation to the city manager. If the district selects the purchase option, it will need to be approved by the city council.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Almi Abeyta said school committee members would have the opportunity to tour the potential locations once they are made public.

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