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New K-8 charter school opening in Providence

Connecting student learning with the larger world, the City of Providence becomes an extension of our classrooms. Read more.

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We welcome you to apply for 2019-2020!

If you are a Providence resident, and your child will be entering Kindergarten, 1st, 5th, or 6th grade we welcome you to apply. Applications are still being accepted until we fill all our seats!

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Our School Is Dedicated To

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Hands-on, student-centered learning
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Restorative-justice

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What if school could be…?

We believe in the power of asking “What if?” to effect change, to inspire, and to reimagine what education can look and feel like, for all our children.

Discover more about our values

A Letter to the Wangari Maathai Community School

Dear Wangari Maathai Families –

I’m writing today while holding back tears. For the last two years, we have worked together and with community leaders across Providence to open a new school with a mission centered around diversity, equity and inclusion. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to open this Fall.

Over the last 15 months, we have been scouting locations for our school. We toured dozens of potential facilities, and very few were feasible because most would not pass the required environmental review. The simple truth is, finding adequate classroom space in Providence is extremely challenging.

Late last year, the possibility of partnering with the John Hope Settlement House came up. At the beginning of March, both parties signed a Letter of Interest laying out the basic terms of an agreement. Since then, we have been engaged in good faith negotiations with the John Hope Settlement House to lease a portion unused space in the community center. We’ve presented the John Hope board with multiple versions of lease terms. We addressed every concern they raised and offered every concession whenever the board demanded more because our top priority was opening our doors and welcoming your children into our school community.

  • We offered to pay John Hope Settlement House $875,000 over five years.
  • We promised to make a substantial investment in capital improvements that would outlive our lease.
  • We agreed to share the costs for any necessary repairs.
  • And we assured them repeatedly that our presence as a tenant at the John Hope Settlement House would not in any way encroach on the important services they provide residents across the West End.

Despite the generous lease terms we drafted (in collaboration with members of John Hope’s board) and first presented to their board over a month ago, they have refused to take a formal vote to approve the contract before the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s deadline passed this weekend. In light of the uncertainty of our facilities options for this Fall, the Office of the Commissioner of Education has informed us that they will not recommend final approval of our charter at this time, and we will not open in the Fall of 2019. Our board and I were in constant contact with the John Hope Settlement House board until late last night and did everything in our power to secure a lease before RIDE’s deadline. Unfortunately, our appeals on your behalf did not persuade the John Hope board and they opted to allow the clock to run out.

We have reached out to the Providence Public Schools Department and the Rhode Island Department of Education to request resources and support to help you enroll your child in a preferred public school or navigate the waitlist for other charter schools you may be on. Here is a link to RIDE’s list of all of Rhode Island’s charter public schools. We will host a family meeting in the next couple of weeks to make those resources more directly available to you. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or members of the Wangari Maathai Community School board directly.

I am personally heartbroken, but my disappointment pales in comparison to the inconvenience and frustration I’m sure this situation will cause your family. Even though our physical doors won’t open this fall, we are not closing the door on our mission. Please keep in touch and know that I and our entire board are available to support your family during this transition.

Sincerely,

Siobhan Callahan
Founder and Executive Director
Wangari Maathai Community School

WMCS Fast Facts

Wangari Maathai Community School:

  • Free, K-8 public charter school for Providence students
  • Leadership team committed to hiring a staff reflective of our student body
  • Hands-on, project-based, student-centered curriculum
  • Sustainability and environmental stewardship focus
  • Restorative-justice model for conflict resolution
  • Strong commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion

"It's the little things citizens do that will make a difference. My little thing is planting trees."

-Wangari Maathai
the Kenyan founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize

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