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LeBron James-backed I Promise School Welcomes Akron Students Starting Today

Today is the first day of school for about 240 Akron students who are attending what’s being called an experimental school. And it’s being backed by one of the most famous people in the world.

The LeBron James Family Foundation is partnering with Akron Public Schools on the “I Promise School,” named for the pledge-to-graduate that James encourages APS students to take. The $2.8 million project has been described as the kind of school the former Cavalier wishes he could have attended.

Brandi Davis is principal of the new school, and says many of the ideas being tried out at I Promise could be adapted to other APS buildings.

“The parents will bring their students to school to get an invaluable education. And the parents can go to the family resource center and get the supports that they need in order to provide the best possible environment for their children.”

Davis adds that I Promise will run year-round with short breaks, instead of on a traditional schedule with a single long break for the summer. She says they’re offering a STEM-infused curriculum and wraparound services for students and their families. That includes an extra hour after school for clubs and other activities, known as the “Illumination Period.”

“We were looking at how we could best provide the academic and social-emotional needs – as well as sports and activity needs – of our children. And when we announced it at our orientation, the parents overwhelmingly started clapping and cheering. Because a lot of parents do have to deal with after-school care.”

This year, the I Promise School is only accepting third- and fourth-graders who were most at-risk of falling behind academically. Within five years, Davis hopes to expand the school to include first through eighth graders.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.