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New public charter school aims to boost literacy in Southeast Grand Rapids

Gerald Dawkins Academy
A new public charter school in Southeast Grand Rapids recently opened for its first year last week. The school building was newly renovated prior to the first day of school.

A new public charter school opened last week in Southeast Grand Rapids. The new K-3 school aims to increase low literacy rates in the area.

Located on 1050 Fisk Road SE, Gerald Dawkins Academy has an enrollment cap of 120 students.

The school is named after Dr. Gerald Dawkins, lifelong educator who worked for Grand Rapids Public Schools and later became the first Black superintendent of Saginaw Michigan City Schools.

The Grand Rapids-based Center for Sound Literacy is spearheading Gerald Dawkins Academy.

Kate Alles is the Director of Instruction and Educational Support Services for the foundation.

She said the foundation, which started in 2015, has grown over the past nine years to include a large network of tiered intervention models.

Alles said it meets students where they’re at and provides them with highly diagnostic and differentiated instruction.

“Gerald Dawkins Academy was born out of the belief that all students deserve access to high quality education regardless of their zip code and as the momentum of our work grew and as we saw the success that we were able to achieve with students, the vision for this school kind of came from that work,” she said.

Alles said the school has an innovative approach to learning that she hopes will result in high academic achievement.

"We have a highly trained staff who are able to be diagnostic with students, we are very data driven so we are analyzing results and identifying individuals plans for every student in our building," she said.

Classrooms at the academy are capped at 20 students per class, which Principal Mark Frost said is a "luxury" for teachers.

"I taught for 20 years and I never had a class of 20 or fewer, so the one-on-one instruction will be so much more meaningful, the small group instruction will be so much more meaning in these classes," Frost said.

Frost said the academy also aims to foster a sense of community by hosting a variety of events for students and their families.

"Studies show if you bring families to in to school for any reason, children will do better because they feel the importance of school they know that their parents think school matters, and so that's what we're building here," he said. "A true community school here to go along with excellent instruction."

Frost said Gerald Dawkins Academy will eventually expand to the 5th grade over the next few years and will increase the enrollment cap to 360 students.

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