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Holyoke Public School’s Opportunity Academy has been awarded a $600,000 Barr Foundation Beyond Engage New England grant that will allow the district’s alternative high school to continue to ”do high school differently,” with a focus on achieving equitable experiences and outcomes for its students. 

This funding comes from the latest phase of an on-going initiative from the Barr Foundation to help high schools across New England bring new school models to life in their communities. Barr selected Holyoke’s Opportunity Academy and four other schools to receive three-year grants of up to $600,000 to broaden the impact of the work they’ve already started—creating excellent schools that can serve as models within and beyond New England and that can help more students thrive. 

“This new round of funding will further support our plans to strengthen Opportunity Academy’s post-secondary success planning and programming, continue our shift towards project-based and competency-based learning, and increase capacity across our staff to act as primary person advisors for each of OA’s students,” said Principal Geoffrey Schmidt. “Without the partnership of The Barr Foundation and Springpoint, we would never have been able to increase enrollment and double our graduation numbers, while increasing the rigor and relevance of student learning and becoming more adept at strengthening relationships with students to increase their engagement and academic success.”

Prior funding and support from The Barr Foundation—and their school design partners, Springpoint Schools—have supported professional development, staffing, partnerships with experts in fields of study, and curriculum design. 

“We are thrilled with the progress made to date among the schools selected for Beyond Engage New England, and are excited to support their ongoing work to become nationally exemplary schools,” said Jenny Curtin, acting director of education at the Barr Foundation. “This is an initiative that will continue to ensure that all young people in New England – but especially the students who have often been most failed by our system and for whom people often have the lowest expectations – thrive in high school and are on a trajectory for lives of choice and opportunity.”