May 20, 2018
Old Sturbridge Village Gets OK to Create Charter Public School

April 7, 2017 — Old Sturbridge Village, a nonprofit living history museum in Sturbridge that depicts early New England life, recently announced that it has received the go-ahead from the state to establish a charter public school, becoming the second museum-operated charter public school in the nation.

"We are elated," said Jim Donahue, president and CEO of Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), "that after three years of comprehensive planning and community outreach, Old Sturbridge Village is prepared to bring top-quality education and hands-on, transformative learning to generations of students in Massachusetts."

Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School, to be located on the OSV campus, will open this fall and initially serve 160 students from nearby towns in kindergarten through grade 3. It plans to add one class each year, to grow to 360 students in grades K-8.

Donahue said the school will "bring our educational mission full circle."

He explained that OSV currently provides an educational experience to about 60,000 students annually through field trips, workshops, internships, home school days, and summer experiences. The school will enable OSV to offer a fuller educational experience that will "have a transformational impact on students."

The school will also enable OSV to pilot new programs, according to Donahue.

The school is the result of a partnership between Old Sturbridge Village and EL Education of New York, which has created a network of 160 schools nationwide that provides curriculum frameworks and support of educational resources for school staff.

Donahue, who has led the Highlander Charter School in Providence for seven years following a decade in urban education, said that he knew when he first started as president of OSV 10 years ago that OSV had the resources and capacity to support a public school.

He said plans for the school began to develop in 2012, with the board deciding in 2015 to complete an application. The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education granted a charter at the end of February.

The charter school, a public entity, will be distinct from OSV and have its own board. It, however, will contract with OSV for management services and educational programming, and lease space from OSV.

"It will not be a financial drain on Old Sturbridge Village, as it has its own funding formula," said Donahue, who will serve as CEO of the school for the next five years.

For now, the school will avoid the expense and effort of creating critical infrastructure by piggybacking on OSV's human resources, accounting and finance, and development functions.

"Not only will we bring students into our museum," said Donahue, "but we will bring the museum into our school. Village resources include a robust research library, working farm and gardens, a 250-seat theater, a pottery shop and kiln, a woodworking studio, and nature trails."

More than 200 applications for enrollment have already been received to date.

The Henry Ford Academy, located inside the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, was the country's first museum-operated charter public school.

OSV opened to the public in 1946 and today, with 40 historic buildings on 200 acres, is the largest living history museum in the Northeast. Each year, more than 250,000 visitors interact with costumed historians, experience up-close demonstrations of early American trades, and meet heritage breed farm animals.

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