By Tara Figurski
Franklinton Preparatory Academy opened its doors to students four weeks ago, with the goal of serving students who were getting lost in the traditional school setting.
The charter school’s state contract promised 65 percent of its student body would come from the Westside, said Martin Griffith, founder and principal.
“Honestly we want the number a lot higher,” he said. “I have a passion to create a school in Franklin County that becomes the Westside school of choice.”
The school opened its doors four weeks ago with 95 students, but with its share of challenges. Columbus Public Schools provides transportation to charter schools but there are not enough drivers.
“We purchased COTA passes for the month of September,” Griffith said. “We are closing in on a resolution with Columbus.”
One of the biggest challenges has been convincing people students on the Westside are worthy of having a great learning environment. Westside students have an inaccurate negative reputation, Griffith said.
“I believe that every student, every year deserves to go to a good safe school, be challenged academically and treated like a person,” he said.
The school is improving the quality of learning. Griffith said there are no fights or drama like you find in other public high schools. Kids feel safe, protected and valued and know it is okay to learn.
“We have done some baseline testing and surprisingly, a lot of kids scored really high,” Griffith said. “I think they scored high because they feel they are in a place where they can demonstrate their academic ability without fear.”
Griffith said students came together quickly and formed a nice learning community.
“What I’ve seen in the four weeks that we have been open is how fantastic the kids are given a good environment to work in,” he said.
The focus of the school is preparing students for life. Educators work with students beginning in the ninth grade to help them select a post-graduate path that coincides with their ambitions and goals, he said.
Students can choose one of four paths including college, career, military or trade school and are offered an internship in the 11th and 12th grade. They get real life experience prior to graduation, Griffith said.
Franklinton Preparatory Academy is looking for businesses interested in providing internships, Griffith said. Students will learn to be punctual, work in a structured environment and report to a boss.
Reaction to the school has been great, Griffith said. Students take an elective every day. There are two local artists who work with students in watercolors and printmaking. Community members helped organize an ultimate Frisbee team, cheerleading, basketball and a school newspaper, according to Griffith.
“All of these elective classes are taught by people who live and work in Franklinton and the Hilltop community,” he said.
School officials want to enroll at least 10 more students this year. They also plan to move into the Chicago Avenue School over Christmas break.
Organizers received a $5-million grant to complete renovations last year and the building can hold up to 300 students, according to Griffith.
“Nobody slips through the cracks here,” he said. “They can come over here. I would welcome the opportunity to serve more people.”