Springfield Prep Charter School introduces new building
SPRINGFIELD – While looking around the building to assess classroom space, Jenahsiz Millan Tao said the new Springfield Prep Charter School is the perfect size.
“Love it,” said the 9-year-old, soon-to-be fourth grader, as she and her family strolled through the newly completed school at 2071 Roosevelt Street East, I love all the space in the classroom and that the teachers are so kind and gentle in Springfield. The old office building was renovated at a cost of $20.4 million.
Although Springfield Prep was scheduled to open in the penultimate week of August, parents, students, and staff were able to catch a glimpse of Thursday, August 19. The most common reaction from everyone who visited was to be surprised by the amount of space in the new building.
“We’ve gone from about 20,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet, so it’s definitely a game changer for us,” said CEO Bill Spearer.
The school started on Pine Street seven years ago by sharing a space with Veritas Preparatory Charter School. Then it was on the campus of the Jewish Community Center on the Springfield/Longmeadow line.
Ashley Shaw, the second grade teacher and class president, has been at the school since its founding and said the new building feels like a fresh start.
“It is the little things like windows that let in light and more space in the classroom. We are excited to be in a place where children can grow up and learn, and we can have fun teaching.”
Principal Jessica Janus said the new classroom designs will allow the school’s two-teacher model to operate effectively.
“The new classrooms allow teachers to have enough space to form groups where children get what they need,” she said.
Maggie Collins, a teacher for K-2 English learners, said it was exciting to have a place of her own.
“We sing a lot in my class and I’ll be able to turn on the audio and video, close the door and have our own space,” she said.
Collins said being able to meet families after a long period of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic was the best part of his day.
“It’s great to see families come and you can tell them they’re smiling through their masks,” she said. “I feel like we can finally give these kids everything they deserve.”
9-year-old Brill Bragg went to school with her parents Renee Holmes and Alan Oymet.
It’s beautiful and I’m grateful,” said Brill, who will be in fourth grade this year.
She has been at Springfield Prep since she was in kindergarten. Her mother said that while she is happy with the new building, she is excited more than anything for her daughter to go to a school that celebrates diversity.
“The school is great. The colors are great and very inviting and the space is really beautiful. I like that they have a ventilation system to cover the needs of COVID, but we love the diversity of the school, especially with the teachers. You can see African American teachers here, so it’s really nice,” Holmes said.
Springfield Prep has 425 students in kindergarten through seventh grade and will expand to eighth grade in the 2022-23 school year. There are more than 70 full-time employees. Springfield Prep is a free public school with no test requirements. Students register through the lottery.
Spreer said the school has a gymnasium complete with a theater, multiple play areas, and outdoor classrooms. There are also science and arts classrooms, a multipurpose cafeteria and a community room.
“These are things that we weren’t fortunate enough to have in the previous places we’ve been, so they mean a lot to our teachers and students,” he said.
Maurice Elliott, 12, is in seventh grade and loves art.
“I’m looking at new equipment and technology and maybe some new classes,” he said.
For Jenahsiz, the new hall and more classrooms is the perfect place for a dance class.
“I really want to teach the class how to make TikTok popular. So you have to know how to dance, you have to dance a lot. That is why we have to prepare and open this dance class,” she told Spreer.