In Franklinton, where incomes and education levels fall below citywide averages, schools are getting creative to give students a fighting chance.
United Schools Network, Franklinton Preparatory Academy and Central High School are among those providing alternatives to public schooling, which, for a variety of reasons, doesn’t always work for students in low-income areas.
“One of the amazing things about education is we actually have a lot of options in the neighborhood.” says Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade, a neighborhood advocacy group.
Central High School, for one, offers flexible class scheduling to support students trying to hold down jobs or take care of their siblings in a single-parent home.
The “dropout recovery school” serves students who otherwise would be enrolled in high school but have fallen behind, or need a new environment.
Kimberly Matteo, enrollment specialist at Central High School, says the dropout rate in the neighborhood feeds on itself.
“Ninety percent of all kids that walk in the door just want to go to school, but all the drama got in the way of that,” Matteo says. “So that’s what made them stop going to (another) school, was the issues they were facing with their peers – other students that are dropping out of schools elsewhere, and they just want to join them.”
The 3-year-old Central High School is considered a charter school in that work is done online. But students still physically attend the school building at 840 W. State St., in the shadow of Mount Carmel West hospital.
Homework is not assigned, although students can get ahead if they want to – and if they have Internet access. There are free COTA bus passes, along with free breakfast and lunch.
“Our goal is to help them earn a high school diploma,” Matteo says. “And make them good people as well.”
She calls it a “laid-back atmosphere,” acknowledging the traditional classroom environment didn’t work for students on the first go-round.
“So we treat them like adults, they choose their schedule of classes,” she says. “I think it definitely does make a difference. The fact of the matter is, we’re not getting a lot of the support from the guardian or parent from home. It’s the kid’s decision whether or not they show up in this building.”
After that, success isn’t always measured by test scores.
“It’s just making sure they’re leaving our building becoming better people,” Matteo says. “Knowing they have a chance to change what’s been going on in their families, for years and years. There’s a way out of the cycle.”