Diversity & Inclusion
Education / STEM

Freire Charter School wants to open a tech-focused high school

The School District of Philadelphia is accepting charter school proposals for the first time in seven years and Freire is applying.

Freire Charter School is trying to open a technology and entrepreneurship-focused high school.

It’s the first time in seven years that the School District of Philadelphia is accepting applications for new charter schools and Freire, which runs a middle school and high school in Center City, will be one of those applicants. The deadline for applications is Nov. 15.

At Tech Freire, Dave Shahriari envisions a school where technology and entrepreneurship are integrated into every class. Shahriari, who has worked as a Freire Charter School administrator for the last five years, said it’s a model they use at Freire Charter School, which is instead focused on social justice. For example, students will learn math through computer programming.

Why focus on technology? To prepare students for the nearly 530,000 STEM jobs in the Philadelphia region and to get more minority and low-income students into the tech sector, since the majority of Freire’s students fall into those categories, Shahriari said.

It’s also worth noting that in 2013, when the district closed 24 schools, the three schools that expanded all focused on STEM.

If the charter is approved, Shahriari will be Tech Freire’s “Head of School.”

Charter school applications will be “evaluated on the basis of several factors, including the academic program, finances, and community support,” the Inquirer reported. After the application is submitted, the School Reform Commission, which oversees the School District, will hold a hearing tentatively scheduled for the end of December, a spokeswoman for Freire said.

On the topic of finances, Shahriai said Tech Freire will fundraise for any costs not covered by the School District. (For context, 85 percent of Freire Charter School’s budget is allocated by the School District, and the remaining 15 percent is from state and federal grants as well as private donations, a Freire spokeswoman said.)

The proposed tech school has also garnered some community support, in the form of an online petition with more than 300 signatures and a paper petition with about 100 signatures, Shahriai said.

The plan is that Tech Freire would start out with 400 students total (in 9th and 10th grade) in September 2016, Shahriari said. That would grow to a total of 580.

Companies: School District of Philadelphia

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