Rabbi Yisrael Pinson (center) and guests at the ribbon-cutting for the Orchard Academy.
Rabbi Yisrael Pinson (center) and guests at the ribbon-cutting for the Orchard Academy.

Taking a look at the education landscape in Detroit a few years ago, Rabbi Yisrael Pinson felt there was a need for something new.

Rabbi Yisrael Pinson, who runs the Chabad House in Detroit’s Midtown, is adding to his resume: opening the Orchard Academy, a tuition-free, nonreligious, public charter school, this fall for Detroit children in grades K-2.

Taking a look at the education landscape in Detroit a few years ago, Pinson felt there was a need for something new. 

“I thought this city has so much power in terms of higher education, healthcare, entertainment and sports, but how can it move forward if there aren’t good options for children to get a good education?”

Looking to help the city find the solution to this problem long-term, Pinson wanted to open a public school that served the widest range of children possible, one that would offer something personal and unique to help children achieve greatness, not just basic literacy.

After about four years of planning and preparation, the ribbon cutting ceremony for the facility took place June 16, with the school currently open for enrollment and the building set up for classes in the fall. The school is on Woodward Avenue and Calvert, in the city’s North End neighborhood.

Orchard Academy seeks to provide a model of education that does not focus on academics alone, but also focuses on instilling in children a sense of mission and purpose in life, welcoming children of all abilities with an approach to education that offers a rewarding academic experience for all students regardless of skill level. 

The curriculum will replicate the Stockwell Model of education, modeled after the high-performing Charyl Stockwell Academy in Hartland.

‘Whole Child’ Focus

Through a unique blend of Continuous Progress Mastery Learning, a developmental approach to education and a focus on educating the “whole child,” Orchard Academy utilizes mixed-age classrooms and relies on daily evaluations by teachers to meet students where they are in terms of ability and education — offering every child an opportunity to learn at their own pace.

As students’ skills and abilities continue to advance, they are offered the opportunity to move ahead into more advanced coursework and areas of study.

The school will have the capacity to enroll 60 students for the first year, with a plan to add about 20-25 more kids each year. The first year will see two mixed-age classrooms.

“When they’ve fully mastered a unit, they move to the next unit. And when they’re ready both academically and socially-emotionally, they will move to the next classroom,” said Pinson.

Along with the academic side of the model, the social-emotional side of things will be just as important.

“In the model, the social-emotional well-being of a child is not just an additional item that is cared for, but a primary item cared for to make sure the child feels safe and that their needs are addressed,” Pinson said. 

Pinson hopes Orchard Academy can display a successful model that others would want to replicate in Detroit.

To enroll your child or to learn more about the school, visit orcharddetroit.org. 

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