Though students arrived two weeks ago, Science Leadership Academy Middle School in West Philadelphia held its official ribbon-cutting Tuesday.
And with that, one of the more intriguing experiments in Philadelphia education began.
Science Leadership Academy Middle School — or SLA-MS as it is affectionately known — will serve 88 5th graders this year, with plans to become a 360-student middle school for grades 5-8 over the next three years.
In style and substance, the school will largely resemble Science Leadership Academy, the experimental high school in Center City that has become one of Philadelphia’s academic bright spots in the decade since its founding. SLA-MS — like SLA — will be run by the nonprofit Inquiry Schools and focus on project-based learning where students pose and solve their own problems.
There is, however, one key difference. SLA is a special admission school that accepts only relatively high-performing students. SLA-MS will be a neighborhood school, with its doors open to any child in the surrounding area who wants to attend.
“This allows us to prove that this inquiry-based model can and will work with children in neighborhoods,” said District Superintendent William Hite.
For at least the first two years of its existence, SLA-MS will operate out of Drexel University’s Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships in Powelton Village. It will reserve spots for all students from Samuel Powel Elementary School, a K-4 school located a short trot away.
Eventually, the two schools plan to share one campus on the site of the old University City High School that was shuttered in 2013.