By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Public Schools is considering opening a public service learning high school on the Aiken High campus in College Hill, where students could incorporate fire and police internships as well as community service into their coursework.
The school would house up to 600 students in grades 9-12, but could open with 200 ninth graders as early as next school year if the concept is approved by the board of education Monday.
"I think it's a good idea," said board member Melanie Bates, who came to Monday's board meeting armed with questions about how the school will be financed. "If the staff is in favor of it and it's appropriate for the kids in the school, they'll make it work."
High School Restructuring Manager David Burns said teacher training and other professional development will be paid for through a three-year $269,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Standard operating costs will come from the district, which funds all schools based on the number of students each has.
Students at the school would take core academic courses in their freshman and sophomore years, such as English and algebra, but would have an elective course to address the public service learning focus.
Students in their junior and senior years would have a block of time to dedicate to a public service project, in addition to their academic courses.
However, even academic courses would weave in public service.
For example, students could clean a neighborhood pond as part of the public service component, analyze water samples for science class and write about their findings in a writing class.
"The idea is that the content of the course can be illuminated and made more enriching by doing service experiences," said Steve Elliott, a consultant for the high school service program at the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation.
Mr. Elliott spoke before the board Monday about the school concept.
Students who choose the public safety path would have some training for a career in public safety, such as emergency management, but would need to continue their post-secondary education for a career in the field, Mr. Burns said.
The school, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year with Aiken staff, would be part of a massive overhaul of the district's low-performing high schools. The district wants to improve its dismal graduate rate, where only three of five ninth graders graduate in four years.
Aiken also has a University High School on its campus, where students focus on a college preparatory curriculum.
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