A School is Born: First Year Winds to an End

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Early spring: After intense lobbying by the students to shorten the school day (classes begin at 8:30 a.m. and don't end until 3:46 p.m.), the school's faculty members agree to adjust the schedule. Each class is pared by five minutes to create an end-of-the-day study hall. Students who complete their homework in a given week can skip the study hall the next week; those who don't must report to the study session.

March 28: The ymca plays host to "Gym Day,'' a daylong sports competition for the school. The students, divided into four groups, compete in swimming relays, basketball, volleyball, and a mile-long foot race. The event is so successful, a second one is planned--with a twist. Each group is given 50 points. Any time a student is not prepared for gym or misbehaves, the group collectively will lose a point. If the group goes broke, it will not be allowed to participate in the second Gym Day.

April 12: A lottery is held to select next year's freshman class. The first 30 names drawn are offered slots; the remaining 52 are placed on a waiting list.

April 20: The City on a Hill team wins first place in a regional "Odyssey of the Mind'' competition, a national exercise in creative problem-solving. They become the first team from Boston ever to participate in the 18-year-old national competition.

May 24: The students see the play "To Kill a Mockingbird'' at the Huntington Theater, just down the street from the school.

May 24: A representative from the Roxbury, Mass., public defender's office gives a presentation on juvenile rights at the school's weekly town meeting.

May 31: At 6 a.m., teachers, students, and family members board buses to New York City. They visit Ellis Island and take in the view from the top of the Empire State Building.

June 6: All four student groups hold on to enough points to participate in the second Gym Day.

June 7: The school holds a "volunteer appreciation day'' at one of its weekly town meetings to recognize the two dozen volunteers who regularly help out at the school.

June 10-22: Finals. Students first take a written test in their English class and a 135-question, three-hour science exam. For their writing final, they must compose two paragraphs on assigned topics, and, for history, they draft a constitution for a model form of government. In Spanish, each student is videotaped taking part in a mock job interview--in Spanish.

Later, the students appear for 25 minutes before each of four juries that evaluate their performance in science, math, history, and English. The day before their jury presentations, the students took a written math test, which they then discussed before the jurors.

Late June: Principal Sarah Kass, 29, is selected as a semifinalist for the "Brick Award,'' given by the New York City-based nonprofit group Do Something. The award was created to recognize leaders under 30 who are working to improve their communities. As one of 10 semifinalists, Ms. Kass has won at least $10,000. If selected as the overall winner, she will win $100,000. Ms. Kass plans to use her prize money to set up an endowment for the school.

June 22: The staff gives out academic and citizenship awards at the school's last town meeting of the year. In honor of the Baltimore Oriole baseball player who broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played record, "Cal Ripken Awards'' are given to students with perfect attendance. Every student receives a "Founder's Medal'' on a blue ribbon. The next day, Gregory Ricks, a board member for the school, spots a student proudly wearing his medal on the subway.

Vol. 15, Issue 40

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