In a crowded room filled with nearly 150 people wearing groups of matching T-shirts and waving cardboard cutouts of LeBron James’ head, the Akron School Board unanimously approved the master plan for the I Promise School (IPS) Monday.

In April, leaders from the LeBron James Family Foundation (LJFF) proposed a plan to partner with Akron Public Schools and create a public school to educate students at risk of falling behind their peers.

Since then, the two entities have worked together to research and identify places to fill in gaps in the district’s education.

“We knew the LeBron James Family Foundation was one of the most valuable partners we’d experienced in our APS history,” board member Debbie Walsh said to the crowd of adults and children. “You kids have the greatest opportunity ahead of you.”

The school will be based on the foundation’s existing I Promise Network programs, which have helped more than 1,100 Akron-area grade school students the past six years with programs, support and mentors.

A main difference between the I Promise School and other Akron schools is more learning time. While every kid in the district will be in school 172 days out of the year, kids in the I Promise School will have longer days and breaks distributed differently.

Kids will have an additional hour in school every day called the “illumination period” to use for intervention, enrichment or after-school activities.

School will also start in the summer almost 20 days before other Akron Public Schools to encourage information retention and reduce the “summer slide.”

“Within our master plan, we’re working very hard to make sure learning does happen all summer,” said Keith Liechty, the manager for testing and assessment in APS and the APS-LJFF liason.

The school aims to “help the whole child,” Liechty said, which extends into family life. The master plan proposes having trauma-informed curriculum and an embedded family resource center on site to provide family support.

The school has already identified several community partners, including Swensons, Signet and the University of Akron.

LJFF will provide financial support in addition to federal, state and local funds.

The school will cost $2.5 million to get off the ground, Liechty said.

So far, 120 current third-grade students — from the district’s eight clusters — have already been identified to be in the first group of I Promise School students. In January, the district will select 120 current second-grade students who will join them to kick off third and fourth grades starting next year.

The school will add two grade levels at a time until the 2022-2023 school year, which will accommodate kids in grades 1-8.

“Potentially, this could be one of our largest schools in Akron Public Schools,” Liechty said.

The school will temporarily be in the district’s administration building at 400 W. Market St., which is where the board’s regular meeting was held Monday.

After the proposal, every board member took time to thank the foundation and praise the plan except for John Otterman, who was absent.

“I want to thank LeBron for raising the bar,” said board member Bruce Alexander. “We want to stop lowering the bar for students.”

“This is nothing short of just absolutely phenomenal,” board president Patrick Bravo said. “We truly have been blessed and not a day goes by ... that we don’t recognize how fortunate we are to have the support of the foundation and its staff.”

After board members approved the plan, cheers and even a few tears broke out in the crowd.

“To formally have approval from the board of education means everything,” said Michele Campbell, the executive director of LJFF. “You make us proud to say we are family, and we’re proud to be part of yours.”

In other news...

• The board unanimously approved a $1.9 million grant from the Ohio Department of Education to use on improving student achievement gaps in 14 schools across the district.

• Superintendent David James said the building at 10 N. Main St. looks like the most viable option for the district’s ongoing search to consolidate its administrative offices once SummaCare moves out in March. He plans to have a final recommendation next month.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.