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SLA Middle School celebrates opening

Darryl Murphy

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Science Leadership Academy Middle School officially celebrated its opening in September with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its temporary home at the Dana & David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia.

Operated by the nonprofit Inquiry Schools, SLA-MS, as it is called, will rent space in the center for two years until construction of its permanent location is complete at the site of the former University City High School, which was closed in 2013.

“It is an exciting day for the School District of Philadelphia and our commitment to innovative learning for the children of Philadelphia,” said Superintendent William Hite during the ceremony.

“…SLA Middle School is an example of the District’s commitment to creating innovative models of education and will be a special place where students can inspire others with their curiosity, explore the latest technological advances, and learn alongside their teachers.”

This year, the school will serve 88 5th-grade students. Over the next three years, the school will expand to 360 students in grades 5-8.

SLA-MS will be a catchment for Samuel Powel Elementary School, and, once completed, the two schools will share the location at the University City High site. Any seats left unfilled by Powel students will be open to a citywide lottery, with preference given to students in the 19104 area code.

The middle school’s curriculum will follow Science Leadership Academy’s successful inquiry-based education model, in which teachers pose questions or problems to students to encourage critical thinking and research, instead of presenting facts to be studied. The school will also have access to additional supports and resources from Drexel University.

“The potential of having students see themselves as part of the Drexel family early on is

definitely a bonus of this type of work,” said Diana Laufenberg, executive director of Inquiry Schools, a nonprofit organization that manages Science Leadership Academy.

“Having students see themselves as being welcome and normal in a collegiate family from an early age – I think there’s nothing but beneficial things that happen from that.”

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