This back-to-school season has been a busy one for the Harvest Network of Schools, as it welcomed 1,355 scholars – the network’s largest enrollment since its doors first school opened in 1992.
The Harvest Network of Schools is a group of high-performing K-8 public charter schools, which includes Harvest Preparatory School, Best Academy and the Mastery School. The schools serve predominantly low-income, African-American scholars. According to school officials, Harvest Network scholars have some of the state’s highest math and reading proficiency rates for low-income children, English language learners and children of color.
The Harvest Network of Schools is also one of north Minneapolis’ largest employers and is one of the largest Minnesota companies founded and led by an African-American. Harvest Network of Schools employs more than 200 individuals, many of whom live in north Minneapolis and 59 percent who are people of color.
“My wife and I initially chose a Harvest Network school for our son Tezara in 1st grade,” said Resmaa Menakem. “At his previous school we felt he was not receiving enough individual attention and acknowledgement as a person. Though our son has a learning disability, the Harvest Network pushes him hard, doesn’t let him skate and they love him.”
To accommodate its growing student body, the Harvest Network has moved its middle school (5th-8th grade) program to the former Lincoln Community School building at 2131 12th Ave. N. The Harvest Network continues to serve about 1,000 K-4 scholars at its original campus at 1300 Olson Memorial Hwy.
The middle school program started this past week, and students were welcomed with a drum corps and high-fives from teachers and staff as they entered the new building. The elementary and early childhood programs began later in the week.
Built in 1923, Lincoln is a historic Minneapolis school with a long reputation of serving the community. In the 1930s, Lincoln had an adult literacy and naturalization program serving immigrant communities. The school closed in 2007 and was vacant until 2012 when Minneapolis College Preparatory School, a public charter high school, moved in. Minneapolis Public Schools is leasing space to both schools for the 2014-15 school year.
“We are grateful to Minneapolis Public Schools for their continued partnership and support for the Harvest Network. Like Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, we agree that every neighborhood in our community deserves to have great schools,” said Eric Mahmoud, founder and CEO, Harvest Network. “We want to show our community that we can have a school with a rich culture, deep community connections, and excellent academic programming. We are closing the belief gap.”
The “belief gap,” is one of five gaps Mahmoud says contributes to the achievement gap – the disparities in educational outcomes between white scholars and scholars of color. The others are a preparation gap, a teaching gap, a leadership gap and a time gap. Harvest Network schools have longer days and a longer year, starting two weeks before district schools open this year.
“We want to give our scholars every advantage to learn and grow. Experience has shown us that more time on focused learning pays huge dividends for student achievement,” said Mahmoud.