Academy of Warren

Warren, MI

The Academy of Warren (AOW) was a struggling K-8 charter school serving some of the lowest income families in Detroit. Located in a former strip retail property (a former supermarket, and former nursery, surrounded by asphalt) on a largely empty stretch of East Eight Mile Road.

AOW offered relative safety for its students, but virtually no school amenities or co-curricular or extra-curricular programs. Our Nonlinear solution has transformed AOW into a high-quality community school.

For a closer look at this transformation and what it means to the AOW community, take a look at our mini-documentary Natural Light: Transforming a School on East Eight Mile Road (18 minutes).

AOW’s new school leader said he wanted everyone entering the transformed school to think and feel: “Safe, Welcome, Comfortable, Family Oriented, Warm, Excited, Wow, Wonder.” And he wanted to increase enrollment capacity by 30%.

AOW had no available funds, no donors, no access to new government funding, and no ability to divert funds from its limited operating budget. Its students were scoring very low on standardized tests. The neighborhood had a crime problem. Lenders were not interested. A recent New York Times story had featured AOW as an example of why Michigan charter schools are the worst in the U.S.

Our solution – using no fund raising, no new government funding, and actually reducing AOW’s debt burden – has increased capacity by 30%. AOW now has record enrollment and a waiting list for the first time.

On this project we added a library, tutoring rooms, tech lab, science labs, art studios, maker space, TV/video studio, faculty co-working rooms, student lounges, bouldering studio, family lounge, dining hall, black box theater, gym, indoor soccer field, enhanced campus security, outdoor athletic field, student gardens, playground (student designed), and an interior “Learning Street.”