When Steven Haddad first opened the doors to Murdock Academy for Success last September, the School Committee told him to start small. “They said, ‘if you have one success story by the end of the year, we will consider the school a success,’” said Mr. Haddad.
As it turned out, the alternative high school had many success stories — including drop outs who chose to come back to school and kids who previously stayed home with anxiety disorders becoming more active and making friends. Additionally, students who failed their classes at traditional schools are now catching up to the rest of their grade.
“We try to teach them what success is and then have them define what it means for them,” Mr. Haddad said. High school students spend the morning at the academy and their afternoon at either internships, jobs or attending additional classes at Murdock High School. Students at the academy complete all of their classwork online and at their own pace, with teachers on-hand to help.
By the end of the year, 17 high school students and four middle school students were enrolled at the school — far exceeding the committee’s initial goal of 12 high school students. Work is currently underway to expand the school in order to house a full class of middle school students. The academy, located in the Marvin School Building on Ash Street, was previously partitioned into two halves — one for the academy and the other for YMCA day care.
Due to the academy’s success, the day care is moving into one of Winchendon’s elementary schools. Officials say this is a logical move, as most of the students in the day care program attend the elementary school. This summer, equipment will be moved out of the day care’s former space. The lilac walls will be painted over and classroom equipment, such as smart boards, will be moved in.
The goal is to start with six middle school students who will spend their mornings at Murdock Middle School and afternoons at the academy, according to Mr. Haddad. Internships and work study will not be offered.