Dayton Early College Academy, a higher-performing charter school, will open its third location this fall, serving middle school students in downtown Dayton.
The school will occupy the former Miami-Jacobs Career College building at the northeast corner of Second and Patterson. It will absorb the seventh and eighth grades that currently attend DECA’s University of Dayton campus, and the fifth and sixth grades that attend DECA Prep on Homewood Avenue.
“Right now we serve 1,000 students, and our long-term goal is to have a few hundred more. But we’re not looking to have a massive expansion,” said DECA Chief Academic Officer David Taylor. “We think we’ll be at 1,100 or a little more this fall — 450 at DECA Prep (kindergarten through fourth grade), 350 at the new middle school (fifth through eighth) and 300 at the high school.”
Taylor said DECA took possession of the building this week and is doing minor renovations to meet building codes. He said school leaders have wanted to create a middle school for years and just found the right opportunity, calling the site a beautiful building that is easily accessible in a safe, central location.
“The middle grades are taught very different from the youngest and oldest grades,” Taylor said. “I think we’ve done pretty well serving our middle grades, and our numbers speak to that, but … to have those kids in that location wasn’t ideal. Instructionally, this is the right move.”
The announcement of a middle school model comes the same week that Dayton Public Schools voted for a fairly similar move. DPS will take most of its seventh- and eighth-graders out of PreK-8 buildings this fall, launching three new middle schools.
Dayton Public Schools is the sponsor of DECA’s high school, but Taylor said the two moves were not related. Representatives of both DPS and DECA mentioned the possibility of some student movement, given the grade changes.
DECA’s new building became available when Miami Jacobs moved a block south. Miami Jacobs officials said they officially left the building at Second and Jefferson on Jan. 8. They’re now at 401 E. Third St., where they continue to offer associate degree programs.
City of Dayton planning officials said the new DECA property already meets zoning requirements, leaving only building code standards to meet.
DECA improved to grades of B and C on its graduation rate in last month’s state report card. Other report card measures for 2014-15 are not out yet, but for the previous year, DECA earned a B in Performance Index, and DECA Prep had a high C.
The DECA schools are open primarily to students living within the Dayton Public Schools district. Taylor said the enrollment application deadline is March 4, with the school operating on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We always tell families that this is a challenging school,” Taylor said. “We’re going to push you and ask you to do more than most schools will — both the student and the parent.
“All are welcome to come, but know that you’re going to be in a school that expects you to be the best you can be.”