Somerville Wins $10 Million for a ‘Super School’

The funds will support a year-round project-based school called Powderhouse Studios.

A nonprofit with dreams of an experimental high school in Somerville is about to get a huge boost: $10 million cash.

The local education organization, Sprout & Co., just won a multimillion dollar grant from the XQ Super School Project, the Silicon Valley-born campaign whose board of directors is helmed by Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Steve Jobs.

The Somerville proposal was one of hundreds that teams submitted for the chance to try outside-the-box ideas at American high schools. XQ picked 10 submissions from the contest to fund. Each will be awarded the grant money over five years. The winners were announced in a live-streamed ceremony on Wednesday. It’s now on YouTube and you can watch the Somerville segment here.

In Somerville, Sprout & Co. plans to work with Somerville Public Schools to open a new school called Somerville Powderhouse Studios, according to a presentation at Wednesday’s ceremony. Students involved in the program will go to school year-round (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), will have an art studio and other resources at their disposal, and will forgo regular classroom learning to work on a series of projects in teams. Instead of learning from teachers, they will work with project managers, curriculum developers, and social workers.

“Their research park model creates a space where students can dive deep into topics they love while being surrounded by the resources to support and guide their curiosity,” said US Rep Luis Guttierez, who introduced the team from Somerville.

The Globe reports that two hundred eighth-grade students will take part in the program—which will be housed in an old school building—beginning either next year or the year after.

Somerville Superintendent Mary Skipper, in a recorded video segment, says she’s excited about getting support for new ideas from local thinkers.

“The thing about XQ, that it gave, was not $10 million—like, that’s nice,” Skipper says. “What it gave was a push to the field of education and to people that don’t typically play in the field of education, like these guys, an opportunity to design and imagine something that doesn’t exist.”


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com