In January, 130 eighth-graders took an entrance exam to get into the academy, which Haverhill High began this school year to keep the city's top students from going to private high schools. Students in the academy have a rigorous course of study, including honors classes, Latin, Greek and advanced European history.
Last week 160 students took the exam, high school officials said. That is a 23 percent increase in applicants. The academy will maintain the same number of students in the 2007-2008 year as this year - about 55 - so more students are competing for the same number of spots.
Students in the academy attend most core curriculum classes together, with the exception of art, music, gym and the lunch period - where they mingle with the rest of the Haverhill High student population.
"I was nervous that we'd be segregated from the rest of the school," said Kailey Burke, 14, a member of the academy. "I'm happy that we get to be with the other students."
Latin teacher Paul White, one of the architects of the academy as well as one of its advisers, said the school created the academy as an alternative to private schools like Central Catholic High in Lawrence where families pay thousands of dollars a year in tuition.
"It's a way for students to save money they can spend on college," White said.
Haverhill High Principal Bernard Nangle said school leaders are happy with interest shown by Haverhill eighth-graders and their parents.
"We hope our academy will bring in kids who would have gone to the other schools," Nangle said. "We want to keep our own kids from going elsewhere."
Haverhill High has a total of 2,100 students. The freshman class has 587 students, including those in the academy.
White said academy teachers immediately arrange after-school tutoring for Academy students who are falling behind. Students must maintain no less than a C average in order to return to the academy the next year.
Students applying to the academy take a four-hour test, similar to what they would face trying to get into a private high school. Academy students will have their attendance in the special section of the school noted on their high school transcripts and their diplomas.
Nangle said students who are accepted to the academy for the coming school year should find out within about two months.
"We'll get the results at the end of January and we'll be sending out acceptance letters in February," he said.
Debbie Sasso-Flanagan, supervisor of social studies and foreign languages at the school, polled 51 students in the academy this week and learned that 11 of them had taken entrance exams at private schools before deciding on attending Haverhill High's Classical Academy.
"They took another exam but they came here," Sasso-Flanagan said.
Nettle Middle School graduate Mackenzie "Mac" Milewski, 15, said his parents were considering sending him to a private school. They suggested he take the entrance exam for the Classical Academy and he got accepted.
"I like it," he said. "We have good teachers and you get to stay in the same classes with your friends."
He said he receives an average of two hours of homework a night - "including weekends," he said.
Julie Solimine, 14, said her teachers at Consentino Middle School pushed her to take the academy's entrance exam.
"I wanted to come to the high school anyway to be on the cross-country team," she said.
Haverhill High's Classical Academy
Students who took this month's entrance exam: 160 - 23 percent more than applied last year.
Number of openings: 55
When notified of acceptance: Sometime in February.
Cost: No charge to students because this is a public school program.
Curriculum includes: Minimum of three years of Latin plus Advanced Placement courses. Designed to offer students classes similar to those found in private high schools.
Diplomas at graduation: Will have special notation indicating graduation from the academy.