Jordan Plans to Start Its Own New England-Style Prep School
DEERFIELD, Mass. — Deerfield Academy, with its brick buildings, blazing maples, jacket and tie requirements and powerful graduates, is the quintessential New England boarding school. Soon, it will see its reflection in an unlikely place, outside Madaba, Jordan.
Deerfield officials are helping to establish King's Academy, the Middle East's first coeducational boarding school, at the request of King Abdullah II of Jordan, who graduated from Deerfield in 1980.
"The idea is to transfer the American-style boarding school to Jordan," said Safwan Masri, a professor at Columbia Business School and chairman of the new academy's board. "We want to bring the best of American education and create a school like no other in the region, one focused on preparing leaders, both men and women, in the public and private sectors."
Construction started in 2004, and the academy is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007. Faculty members will be hired in the coming months.
The academy will have space for 600 students in grades 9 to 12, almost all from the Middle East. The school's annual budget dedicates 15 percent to scholarships, based both on academics and financial need.
The academy and Deerfield will be independent of each other, but there are plans to start an exchange program. Deerfield teachers and administrators are advising in the start-up, and in June, Deerfield's headmaster, Eric Widmer, is to leave his post to become headmaster of King's.
Like Deerfield, King's will have small classes, competitive athletics and family-style meals. English will be the primary language of instruction, and the curriculum will be governed by the requirements of the American advanced placement system.
Dr. Masri said research showed an interest among wealthier Middle Easterners for a school like King's; only Turkey has a similar institution. Many parents in the region, he said, send their children to the United States or Europe for high school.
Academy officials plan to send recruiters across the region to identify promising students, including those in Palestinian refugee camps and small villages.
Although the academy will have an American flavor, Dr. Widmer acknowledged that it would "need to represent the culture and tradition of the Middle East."
To that end, all freshmen will be required to take a year of religion, at least one semester of which will be centered on Islam. The customary junior-year course in American history will be replaced with Middle Eastern history. Koranic studies will be offered to juniors and seniors, and Arabic, while not required, will be offered to all students.
The school will also have an interreligious King Abdullah Spiritual Center, which, Dr. Widmer said, will actively recruit Israelis.
The campus is on 150 acres, and like Deerfield will contain swaths of greenspace, boys' and girls' dorms with single bedrooms, and a large common dining area. The maples at Deerfield will give way to palm trees, brick to stucco, and chapel to a mosque. The buildings will be in the Levantine style, with red tile roofs and wooden balconies. The boys' and girls' dorms will be a good distance from one another.
The academy began a $100 million capital campaign in 2004, and more than $50 million in cash and pledges has been raised, Dr. Masri said. Construction and start-up costs are estimated at $65 million, he said, and the board is hoping to raise more money for an endowment, scholarships, faculty chairs and other expenses.
Officials admit that the notion of a coeducational boarding school is likely to make many residents of the region uncomfortable. Officials also expect many parents to be concerned about security, especially in light of the suicide bombings that killed more than 80 people in Amman in November. While the security plan is not yet fully devised, the academy will be enclosed by a large wall, and security officers will constantly be on campus. A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B10 of the New York edition with the headline: Jordan Plans to Start Its Own New England-Style Prep School. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe
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