August 25. 2014 8:04PM
Monday marks first day of school year for Atlantis, Argosy charter schools in Fall River
FALL RIVER — “Where’s algebra?” a new ninth-grader at Atlantis Charter School asked the school’s administrators. It was just the kind of question you’d expect to hear on the first day of class.
Atlantis welcomed back students at its three campuses, including a class of 50 ninth-grade students in its new leased space on the third floor of the former Cherry & Webb building on South Main Street.
Several blocks south of Atlantis, Argosy Collegiate Charter School also heralded its first day, welcoming its first class of sixth-graders.
“We’re jumping right in,” said Atlantis’ executive director, Robert Beatty. “It’ll be business as usual.”
Atlantis, which had long served kindergarten through Grade 8, is in its first year of expansion into teaching high school grades. It had received authorization to do so from the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Most of its ninth-graders attended eighth grade at Atlantis, with about 15 percent coming from other schools in the area, Beatty said.
The staff at the high school is a mix of teachers who had previously taught in the lower grade levels and applied to teach at the high school level, and those who previously taught high school elsewhere and have just joined the school, Beatty said.
The new space features some signs, including one near the school’s entrance with a phrase directly below the name Atlantis: “Failure is not an option.” New lockers line the hallway.
One thing is missing: the sound of a bell tolling to tell students when to move from one class to the next.
The class-to-class transition is aided by some clock coordination among school staff and the building’s site leaders, Chad Gormly and Sunil Janannath.
Students wearing freshly ironed uniforms of light blue and white button-down shirts could be seen in classrooms. Small stacks of binders were placed on their desks, and they listened to their new teachers. Some boys even wore ties.
That’s because, according to Beatty, the requisite school attire for the high school is “all business.”
Even if students were feeling nervous about their first day in a new school and were less than enthusiastic about the end of vacation, they received some direct assurance from their teachers.
“We’re excited to be here,” Rosamaria Carlozzi — who teaches for the school’s Career Academy — was overheard telling a small group of students in her classroom. The Career Academy aims to teach Atlantis’ high school students about different industries and expose them to college-level coursework.
Carlozzi said because she and other teachers are excited to teach, “we get up every morning with butterflies.”
Monday was students’ first day in class, but it wasn’t actually their first day in the building, Beatty explained. Students had already attended orientation last week and received placement testing to determine their academic level.
Students can expect a curriculum that will both prepare them for college and be relevant to the eventual career they choose, explained Assistant Director Michael Lauro. They will not only “learn the content,” he said, they will learn “what it takes to actually go into a career and go to college.”
Classes are small, at eight to 12 students on average.
“The scale of our operation has tremendous upside,” Lauro said. “It’s a classical small learning community.”
Over at Argosy, students had a half-day on Monday.
“It was excellent,” said executive director Kristen Pavao of the first day, adding that she heard students remark, “I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Students learned about school procedures and experienced what will be the usual routine upon arriving to school each day. They will be greeted by Pavao, with a “hello” and a firm handshake, while also making eye contact.
“It’s a great life skill,” Pavao said. It’s also a way to let students know “we’re really paying attention to them.”
“The first day was incredible,” said Nate Fleming, a science teacher at Argosy.
The school will hold its next new student lottery for sixth-grade students on Saturday, Sept. 13. Pavao said parents interested in enrolling their students can download applications from the school’s website, argosycollegiate.org, or apply by calling 508-916-9374, or visiting the school at 263 Hamlet St. The deadline to turn in applications is Sept. 5, Pavao said.