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One School, One Year: A look inside Oyler School

Oyler School at dawn.

Until eight years ago, almost nobody from Lower Price Hill in Cincinnati finished high school, much less went to college. The neighborhood is Urban Appalachian -- a close-knit community of low-income, mostly white families with roots in Kentucky and West Virginia. The local Oyler School only went through 8th grade. After that, rather than take the bus out of the neighborhood for high school, most kids dropped out.

Then, prompted by a state Supreme Court ruling that found Ohio’s school funding system unconstitutional, the city poured more than a billion dollars into rebuilding its dilapidated schools. The people of Lower Price Hill decided to turn their old neighborhood school into a preschool-12 community learning center. After a $21 million renovation, it’s now a gleaming example of the new thinking about how to educate poorer kids, in a holistic way.

Oyler School is open year-round, from early morning until late at night. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sends hungry kids home with food on the weekends. There’s a health clinic with a nurse practitioner and mental health counselors. Every senior is assigned a mentor who spurs them to graduate and apply to college. Last year, out of 38 seniors, 36 graduated. All of them were accepted to college.

But can a school really transform a neighborhood battered by crime and poverty? Marketplace will check in with Oyler throughout the coming school year to see whether this approach can really help kids and their community overcome the obstacles of poverty. Follow our continuing coverage of One School, One Year.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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