Collegiate Charter School of Lowell
This is the story of the Collegiate Charter School of Lowell (Collegiate), a SABIS® U.S. charter school that epitomizes perseverance, resilience, commitment, and cooperation.
When the Collegiate Charter School of Lowell (Collegiate) first opened its doors in Lowell, Massachusetts, in September 2013, it had already overcome more obstacles than some schools encounter in decades of operation. This “little charter school that could” had dealt with facility challenges that had delayed its opening for a full year, and the facilities it was to operate in for the first four years of its existence were far from ideal. But Collegiate did not let anything stand in its way.
Collegiate opened to serve 272 students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade and was initially located in the basement of the Transfiguration Church. Later, as enrollment expanded and additional grade levels were added, the school was split between the first location and a second one, located in another local church facility. When most schools would have given up, Collegiate, supported by a determined and dedicated Board of Trustees and SABIS®, persisted, and today, after four years in temporary facilities, it is housed in a beautiful, purpose-built facility. The school currently serves 848 students, has another 150 students on the waiting list, and plans to expand by one grade level each year until it reaches a full K-12 offering.
Collegiate Board of Trustees Chair Walter McGrail attributes the school’s fighting spirit to those who worked so hard to support it. “There are two words that come to mind when I think about the early days of Collegiate – persistence and resilience,” he says. “The board had this vision in mind. We had many stumbling blocks along the way but could always find people within the city to help. We are also very appreciative of everyone at SABIS® who shared our determination to turn this school we had dreamed about into reality. There were times we thought we must be crazy, but then you see the parents, kids, and teachers on opening day and it makes you believe you are doing the right thing.”
"Such an amazing school with such an amazing staff. It is not about having a beautiful building. What matters the most is that our children are getting the education they need so much. I love this school and I couldn't be any happier!"
– Collegiate Parent
As a member of the global SABIS® Network, Collegiate implements the proprietary SABIS® Educational System™, a comprehensive Kindergarten to Grade 12 program that uses dynamic materials, proven methods, and the latest in technology to provide a solid foundation of knowledge that students can use as a springboard for learning in college and beyond.
At Collegiate, the features of the SABIS® Educational System™ help students work toward their full potential. Rigorous instruction fosters student growth at all levels, and cutting-edge IT systems designed and implemented by SABIS® help teachers stay informed of student weaknesses in real-time. This, coupled with ongoing analysis of student results, allows the school to pinpoint individual students’ needs and offer targeted support in the areas they are struggling. Along with the support students receive at school, the immediate feedback parents receive from the school helps them assist their child’s specific gaps and needs from home.
“I have no doubt that if my children do not understand what is going on in the classroom, it will be identified and proper interventions taken to help bring them back into the fold. I know if my child does not truly understand and cannot do the work, there will be no social promotion. I am 100% behind this practice.”
– Collegiate Parent
Kate McCarthy, Vice-Chair of the Collegiate Board of Trustees, was struck by many aspects of the SABIS® Educational System™ from her very first exposure to it. “What I personally like about SABIS® is the pillars,” she says. “If teachers need help in the classroom, there is an Academic Quality Controller (AQC) to help me. If I have a discipline problem, there is a team to help me, I don’t just send the student to the office for the principal to take care of. There are so many teams that are helpful in this organization – it’s defined to the nth degree who takes care of what and you feel that a teacher can manage better because of the system in place.”
Parents are drawn to Collegiate because of the focus on fundamental subjects like math, science, and English. They also appreciate the structured curriculum. One parent shared, “The focus on the building blocks provides a solid foundation for the communication skills necessary for success as our children mature and need to have meaningful interactions with their peers, employers, and family.”
The access to a good quality education, like that at Collegiate, plays a major role in helping parents decide on which school to enroll their children.
“This school promotes diversity. This culture is cultivated in our children to prepare them for the world where they will be in in contact with people who may be different.”
– Gabriel M. Collegiate Parent
SLO® at Collegiate
One of the pillars of the SABIS® Educational SystemTM is the SABIS Student Life Organization® (SLO®), a student-led society that empowers students and fosters their academic and personal development through real-life experiences. SLO® is an extremely active organization at Collegiate. All departments work hard to promote a positive culture at the school and in the community by focusing on educational and socially responsible projects and events.
As a welcome to the new academic year, the Outreach Department of the SLO® worked throughout the summer to call new students and invite them for tours of the building. The same department also wrote notes to all new students and put bracelets in every student’s locker for the first day of school. Going the extra mile, the prefects in this department have been delivering post cards to students and teachers three times a week, recognizing them and thanking them for the great job they have been doing at Collegiate and in the community.
SLO®, especially the Activities Department, also hosts a variety of events that are open to the community including Jump Rope for Heart, Color Run, school fairs, and more. This year, the Activities Department has been busy working on and planning exciting and engaging events for each month. So far, they have organized Grandparents’ Day and Family Fitness Day, where students’ families were invited to participate in activities with their kids. The department is also working on hosting the first ever International Fair at the school.
Always looking to make a difference in the community, SLO® at Collegiate partners with different agencies on community-based initiatives such as toiletry drives, food drives, and toy drives. The biggest drive they have had so far was the backpack fundraiser organized by the SLO® Head Prefect and Social Responsibility Department. The project collected over 130 backpacks full of supplies that were donated to the Kaheti Primary School in Kenya. The initiative involved lots of time collecting, sorting, and packing bags and then preparing them to ship to Kenya. Students, prefects, Collegiate staff, and community members all contributed. This project set the tone for SLO® to continue brainstorming community projects that make a difference, and they are already planning for an upcoming food drive.
“SLO® is the icing on the cake! Since she joined SLO® as a head prefect in the discipline team, I have seen my daughter in a new light. She has all of a sudden taken on a 'take charge' mentality where anything is and will be possible. She has developed a new sense of responsibility, has become more focused and more organized. SLO® is a critical part of being a student at Collegiate and brings life skills into the fold of academics.”
– Collegiate Parent
Collegiate students benefit from all types of extracurricular activities that range from competitive athletics to after school clubs. The Collegiate athletic program is in its third year and has increased in offerings and participation each year. Today, Collegiate offers thirteen competitive sports that include boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ cross country, co-ed volleyball, cheerleading, boys’ and girls’ track, and archery. Student athletes at Collegiate also compete within the Ecumenical Athletic Association in Lowell, MA.
Students are also able to participate in activities such as chorus, strings, step, dance, typing, gaming, yoga, Girl Scouts, art, coding, open gym, Dungeons and Dragons, walk and talk, STEM, and more. Collegiate also recently joined the First Lego League.
Collegiate students’ efforts through SLO® and extracurricular activities give the school the opportunity to become a valuable member of the community, something that is important for the school’s board. “The school wants to become a good neighbor,” says Walter McGrail. “We are growing and learning what some of the needs of the community are and coming forward with the use of the school. We worked with a local food bank over the summer to use our school to help prepare meals, and we are also looking at the possibility of becoming a future voting site.”
In its five short years in operation, Collegiate has gone from being the “little charter school that could” – could overcome challenges, could persist, could persevere – to the “charter school that does” – does deliver a quality education, does give back to the community, does help students achieve their full potential. With the support and commitment of the school’s Board of Trustees, parents, students, and SABIS®, Collegiate will continue to provide a top-quality education for all students by delivering a solid foundation that prepares them for any challenges that lie ahead.
If you would like to know more about the Collegiate Charter School of Lowell, visit lowell.sabis.net.