By Kevin Kelley
The new Lee Burneson Middle School and new Westlake High School won’t be the only new schools opening in Westlake this fall for students in grades seven through 12.
The Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences, a community charter school renting space on the property of Church on the Rise, will open later this month. As a non-
denominational community charter school, the institution will be publicly financed by the state and privately run.
The Westlake location will be the fifth such school for the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences, but the first in Ohio. The first campus, for grades kindergarten through grade three, opened in San Diego in September 2002. The three other Albert Einstein schools are also located in California.
The North Central Ohio Educational Services Center, which operates North Central Academy, a charter school in Tiffin, became interested in sponsoring a school in Northeast Ohio. Representatives from the group visited leaders of the foundation backing the Albert Einstein Academies in California and decided to sponsor a campus here.
Bruce Thomas, the superintendent for the Westlake campus, said the initial goal was to open a charter school that would serve only grades seven, eight and nine. But interest also emerged from students and parents of students in grades 10 through 12, he explained.
Thomas, who retired after serving as superintendent of public school districts in Marietta and Warren, was teaching at The University of Akron when he was recruited to lead the Albert Einstein Academy. Thomas, who also served as a regional superintendent for the Cleveland Public Schools, would also oversee any future Albert Einstein campus in Ohio.
The enrollment for this fall is currently around 100, Thomas said. Each grade level will have a limit of 75 students. The student body will be made up of children from Westlake, Avon and Avon Lake, North Olmsted, North Ridgeville, Berea, Garfield Heights, Lakewood and Elyria, Thomas said.
The Albert Einstein Academy will be unique, Thomas said, in that it will offer a foreign language requirement every year of a student’s enrollment. Initially this will be in Spanish; however, the school is seeking instructors in Mandarin, Hebrew and Arabic, languages that Thomas said are important in the global economy of tomorrow.
Instruction will also be interdisciplinary and have a global outlook, Thomas said.
“Each subject isn’t taught separately on its own little island,” he explained.
The new school has purchased a digital curriculum that will be projected onto classroom screens, Thomas said.
“There are no textbooks to lose, get wet, have the dog eat,” he said. Students will instead be given binders in which to keep handouts. The curriculum will be updated each year, Thomas said. The school is exploring the integration of tablet computers and may implement a “bring your own device” policy, he added.
The college preparatory school will offer honors and Advanced Placement courses, Thomas said. The dress code will include polo shirts and no jeans, he added.
Class sizes will be small, about 10 to 15 students, said Thomas, adding that individualized attention will be offered to each student.
“The expectation for academic excellence is there for every kid regardless of where their academic level is at the moment,” he told West Life.
While the Albert Einstein Academies have a track record in California, it’s a new entity on the Westshore. So how will the institution seek to draw students in an area with many successful public school districts?
“Even if you’re in a good district, some students have different needs,” Thomas said.
The Albert Einstein Academy may be a good fit for a student whose parent is not necessarily disenchanted with the current situation, but looking for a school that will embrace his or her child, Thomas said.
The new charter school might also be considered by parents and students dealing with unresolved bullying problems at the current school, he added.