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Published: Saturday, 9/7/2002

Plan grants help schools reconfigure class sizes

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Public and the Lima City schools are among 17 urban districts in Ohio awarded grants to help transform their high schools into smaller learning environments.

The Toledo system is expected to receive about $550,000 of the $4.8 million distributed for planning as part of the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative. Lima is slated to receive more than $130,000, an official with KnowledgeWorks Foundation in Cincinnati announced yesterday.

The grants from several foundations, including KnowledgeWorks, are intended to help create “schools within a school” - reconfiguring large high schools to form smaller schools internally of about 100 students per grade level, or up to 400 students within the school.

KnowledgeWorks pledged $5 million to the program in the spring. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $20 million.

In Toledo, five high schools volunteered for the program: Bowsher, Libbey, Rogers, Scott, and Woodward.

The schools will work on developing detailed plans over the next year to create the smaller learning environments, said John Foley, who is program director for the grant. The hope is that schools that feel smaller will improve things such as student achievement and discipline.

“The sense is that if students and faculty and community are more tightly knit and more closely aligned to some common goals, they'll be more effective,” he said.

The grant is made at a great time, he added, since Toledo could be rebuilding or renovating all its facilities in the coming years as part of the Ohio School Facilities Commission project.

A new high school is under construction in Lima, where officials are equally excited about receiving this planning grant.

“It's a unique opportunity, especially if you would take it to the next level and get some of the larger monies,” Superintendent John McEwan said.

About $12.25 million will be available through the initiative next year for school districts selected to implement their plans.

Originally, only about six school districts in the state were supposed to receive planning grants. However, great interest from school districts - all but three of the 20 eligible urban districts applied - led to the decision to seek additional funds and award planning grants to all applicants, said Harold Brown, senior program officer for KnowledgeWorks.

“With all of the interest that the districts are demonstrating, we didn't want to cut off a bunch of them at this point,” he said.



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