Thursday, May 16, 2002

Charter school to open downtown

By Cindy Kranz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The local affiliate of Volunteers of America is opening a charter school this fall to serve children in Cincinnati's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. It's the organization's first charter school in the country.

   For information about the Maud Booth Academy Community School, call 381-1954. The first open enrollment period continues through June 15.
        The Maud Booth Academy Community School at the Anna Louise Inn, 300 Lytle Place downtown, is open to students who live in the federally designated empowerment zone of Avondale, Corryville, Evanston, Fairview-Clifton Heights, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine, Queensgate, Walnut Hills and West End.

        “Our mission here in Cincinnati is to help those who are least served by others,” said Lee Schaefer, Volunteers of America Ohio River Valley vice president of development. ""Those are pretty much the areas that need the most help.”

        Empowerment zones were created to take advantage of tax breaks and grant money to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods. The school, however, has no connection to the federal program and will not receive any empowerment zone money.

        The free school will initially serve about 75 children in grades K-3 and will add a grade each year through the eighth grade. Children will attend an extended year, starting Aug. 6, and will also go to school every other Saturday. The school day will run 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

        Other services promised include free meals, snacks, transportation, school uniforms, a 17-to-1 student-teacher ratio and after-school program and summer programs.

        Charter schools run independently of the traditional public school system but receive public funding. They are free public schools run by teachers, parents or organizations.

        Currently, 13 state-sponsored charter schools operate in Hamilton County. An additional three charter schools are sponsored by Cincinnati Public Schools.

        Ohio is about to overhaul its charter school system. Instead of the state sponsoring charter schools, the state would have oversight over school sponsors, creating a better system of accountability, said Dottie Howe, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education. Legislation has passed the House and is currently in the Senate.

        The Maud Booth Academy is named for the founder of Volunteers of America, an Alexandria, Va.-based national non-profit organization that provides goods and services to poor and disadvantaged individuals and families. Volunteers of America has 40 local affiliates covering 42 states.

        The idea for the Maud Booth Academy was borne out of the success of the VOA's Community and Neighborhood Drug Offensive (CAN-DO) after-school and summer program, Mr. Schaefer said. The program, designed for kids from Over-the-Rhine, provides homework help, meals and activities.

        “We think education is what they need to escape the circle of poverty they're in,” he said.



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