The Near West Intergenerational School (NWIS), a public charter school that aims to serve families on Cleveland’s near-west side, will open this fall inside of Ohio City’s Garrett Morgan School of Science.
“The location in the heart of Ohio City will draw kids from the neighborhood, and many families will be able to walk to school,” says Debbie Fisher, the school’s recently hired Principal. “Cleveland has a huge need for quality, high-performing schools, and we really believe in bringing this model to kids and families.”
NWIS is being modeled after The Intergenerational School (TIS), a high-performing charter school in the Larchmere-Shaker Square neighborhood of Cleveland. In 2009, TIS received a $250,000 grant to replicate its model. After being recruited by members of the Ohio City Babysitting Co-op, a group of parents that exchange sits, TIS decided to open a new school on the near-west side.
There was one small problem, however: they didn’t yet have a building. Racing against an August 2011 deadline, NWIS staff, board members and volunteers filed the necessary paperwork with the State of Ohio to create a new charter school, created a board of directors, worked furiously to gain sponsorship by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and negotiated for space.
When it opens, NWIS will be the first charter school to be housed inside a CMSD school. The agreement has not been without controversy — the Cleveland Teachers Union urged CMSD to reject the agreement, stating that it would divide the community, and two CMSD board members voted against it.
Charter schools in Ohio are publicly funded yet privately managed, and their relationship with CMSD has been anything but cozy over the years. Nonetheless, Fisher says school leaders have been helpful throughout the entire process.
“Their attorneys turned around our agreement in one week,” she says. “There are some really good staff at CMSD that helped make this happen. They see what we’re doing as complementing their efforts to create new and innovative schools.”
Fisher recently spent an hour touring Garrett Morgan and talking with the custodian, and she found it to be in excellent condition. “It’s a beautiful building,” she says. “It has a 600-seat auditorium, and there are no broken seats.”