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Community School Models Gain Steam

A new series on American Public Media's 'Marketplace' takes an in-depth look at a community school model in action in Ohio.

The profiled Oyler School sits in a low-income neighborhood in Cincinnati locals call Lower Price Hill. This school year, the school opened its doors to students after $21 million in renovations and added services to make it a full-blown "community learning center."

As most of you know, "community schools" are those in which students, typically underprivileged, are provided services and resources in addition to academics. These can range from health services to food provisions they can take for their families, and require partnerships with local organizations to offer these enhancements.

Oyler, which serves K-12, now houses a health center, vision center, day care, and preschool on its campus, and students receive three meals a day, along with food for their families for the weekends, one of the Marketplace articles reports. Partners run the gamut, from the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati to local churches to Deloitte Consulting.

According to the principal, as quoted in the story, the hope is to not only to provide more opportunities and better outcomes for the students, more than 90 percent of whom get free and reduced-price lunches and many with learning disabilities, but also turn around the neighborhood.

One of the more jarring quotes: "I could walk you outside the door, not even 15 steps away, and I could probably get just about any drug that I want. I could walk you another 15 feet down, and there are our parents that are prostituting and are hooked on heroin and crack cocaine—parents that used to be in my PTA," says the principal, Craig Hockenberry.

The Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy schools in New York are among the most famous community school models in the country, but the concept has taken off in other cities in recent years, such as Portland, Ore., Oakland, Calif., and Tulsa, Okla.

I mentioned Portland's use of community partnerships in a story I wrote recently on joint use, or how school districts are partnering with local organizations and other community entities to share space and resources.

In other community school news, the Elev8 model, which has sites in Baltimore and Chicago, was recently recognized by the U.S Department of Education as a Together for Tomorrow Challenge Champion, which "recognizes exemplary educational models that create innovative school and community partnerships to turn around low-performing schools."

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