Fertile Ground for Change (1990s – early 2000s)
After years of steady use — for some, more than a century — Cincinnati Public Schools’ buildings required renovating or rebuilding. The district, community leaders and representatives hoped to find a way to simultaneously transform the schools and to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods.
Observing the effectiveness of several community organizations already working in a handful of CPS buildings, they explored creating schools as joint-use facilities with co-located community partners. Research and visits to other districts validated this Community Learning Center model. Cincinnati Public Schools adopted its massive, 10-year Facilities Master Plan in May 2002 for rebuilding its schools districtwide and to begin providing a structure and framework for community partner support.
A community engagement campaign, led by the Children’s Defense Fund and funded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, began for the district’s 52 neighborhoods. With lessons learned from these outreach efforts, Cincinnati Public Schools and the Children’s Defense Fund developed written plans for community engagement and community learning centers, including:
- The need for a Resource Coordinator in each school, to be chosen by the Local School Decision Making Committee (LSDMC).
- Two defining documents: “Guiding Principles for Community Learning Centers” and “Parameters for Partnerships.”
Planting, Taking Root and Gaining Community Support - (2003 – 2008)
Through outreach campaigns and a 52-neighborhood community engagement process, the Cincinnati community understood the need to renovate school buildings and worked together to help revitalize communities. In 2003, they approved a bond issue that launched the largest public works project in Cincinnati’s history. With funding from private local sources, various grants, the state and the voter-approved bond issue, $1billion was identified to rebuild or renovate Cincinnati Public Schools.
Two early Community Learning Centers were Rockdale Academy and Riverview East Academy, both designed with specific partnerships in mind.
Rockdale Academy opened in the Avondale neighborhood in January 2005 with a 1,200-square-foot Health Clinic built into the new school.