‘This will change lives,’ say supporters of $35M Dayton school

Rendering of proposed Greater Dayton School property. CONTRIBUTED
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Rendering of proposed Greater Dayton School property. CONTRIBUTED

A plan for a new $35 million private school in Dayton has received city approval to move forward, and representatives of various business, educational and community groups believe this project will change the lives of hundreds of local kids and families and will become a national model.

“At the Greater Dayton School, there is hope for Dayton’s struggling young people to rise above their circumstances,” said Jyllian Bradshaw, an attorney in Dayton. “As the result of this project becoming nationally recognized — and they will — this collaboration will be known as the solution to educating underserved children.”

Rendering of Greater Dayton School. CONTRIBUTED
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Rendering of Greater Dayton School. CONTRIBUTED

The Dayton City Commission approved a zoning map amendment in support of plans to construct the new Greater Dayton School campus, featuring a fancy state-of-the-art school building, a clinic for wrap-around services, a turf field, basketball court, playground and other facilities.

The 10.2-acre project site in the McCook Field area includes a seldom used baseball field and a deteriorating parking lot, said Jeff Green, a city of Dayton planner.

The planned development does not include or impact the Deeds Point MetroPark or Deeds Point dog park.

However, the city plans to relocate the dog park and the nonprofit developer plans to convert that space and some of the surrounding area into a new public park, with interactive water features, seating, a boardwalk and lawn.

Site plan for proposed Greater Dayton School. CONTRIBUTED
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Site plan for proposed Greater Dayton School. CONTRIBUTED

The Greater Dayton School is the culmination of four years of work focused on community engagement, partnerships and research of best practices, said Ryan Ernst, director of the Connor Group Kids and Community Partners, which is the nonprofit that is planning and funding the new school.

“We went all around the country and met with what we thought were the best educators and some of the best schools, particularly the schools that serve under resourced populations,” he said.

Kids and Community Partners is the nonprofit arm of the Connor Group, the large real estate firm in Miami Twp.

Greater Dayton proposed school thumbnail
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Greater Dayton proposed school thumbnail

This will be Ohio’s first private, nonreligious school for under resourced students, Ernst said, and the school will invest about $30,000 in every student every year.

Wrap-around services will be a major emphasis and the main measure of success will be what kind of adults the school is producing in the long run, Ernst said.

The prek-8th grade school initially will have about 400 students but could to grow to about 600, he said, and about 90% of the school’s students could live within 3.5 miles of its campus.

Some people claim there are already too many schools in the surrounding area, but the real issue is a lack of quality schools, said A.J. Stich, founding principal of the Greater Dayton School.

Some schools have one teacher for classes of 30 students, Stich said, but Greater Dayton School will have two teachers for every 20 students, which will support individualized instruction for every child.

The Greater Dayton School will offer 20%-30% more learning time than traditional schools, he said, and students will receive breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by in-house chef and will have fitness activities during the school day.

Rendering of Greater Dayton School property. CONTRIBUTED
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Rendering of Greater Dayton School property. CONTRIBUTED

“We’re going to leverage what we know about the research between the brain and the body, and when you take care of the body, the brain is going to do a lot more,” he said.

The Greater Dayton School will spend three times as much on its students as the national average, Stich said, and most of the money —$24,000 per student per year — will come from Kids and Community Partners.

At Wednesday’s Dayton City Commission meeting, all but two of the 17 people who spoke during a hearing about the zoning request were in support of the project.

A rendering of the Greater Dayton School. CONTRIBUTED
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A rendering of the Greater Dayton School. CONTRIBUTED

Supporters included the presidents and CEOs of the Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, and leaders from the Victory Project, the McCook Field Neighborhood Association and the Old North Dayton Business Association.

Too many kids in Dayton are in “deep, deep trouble” because they are far behind on their learning and their families are desperately poor and need help, especially wrap-around support services, said Jan Lepore-Jentleson, executive director of East End Community Services in east Dayton.

“This is the model that will change the trajectory of our kids,” she said.

Some critics have said the new school will take resources and students away from Dayton Public Schools and will lack accountability.

Public schools don’t get better by losing money to vouchers, and this project does not sound like it will benefit the community, said Nichol Simmons, one of the speakers at the commission meeting.

Stich said the school will not steal teachers from Dayton Public Schools and it has a 40% cap on the share of students it will admit from the Dayton school district.