Prominent investor plans new private school near downtown Dayton

A unique private elementary school serving low-income students is targeting a fall 2022 opening near Deeds Point in Dayton.

The Connor Group — a Miami Twp. real estate firm that for years has invested in local education — confirmed Wednesday that it is planning a preschool through eighth-grade private school exclusively for “under-resourced” students.

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The school’s model calls for 400-600 students, with significant social services to be provided for families. Some support for students would continue well after they leave the school, to ensure their long-term success.

According to a document discussed at Tuesday night’s Dayton school board meeting, the school will be called the Greater Dayton School.

A June 3 letter from Kids & Community Partners (The Connor Group’s nonprofit arm) to Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli, says the group is acquiring land near Deeds Point just north of downtown to construct the new school. The precise address of the school site was not clear.

A tentative agreement is spelled out in the letter, and the school board is scheduled to vote on the deal next week. The letter says that “as a sign of good faith,” once Kids & Community Partners closes on the property, it will donate $500,000 over three years to DPS.

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The Greater Dayton School agreed to several other provisions in the deal — no more than 40% of its student body will be students who attended a DPS school the previous year, and the school will not use DPS busing. The school will not directly solicit students or families while on DPS grounds and will not use public records-request data to recruit DPS students or staff.

Dayton school board President Mohamed Al-Hamdani said Tuesday night that Lolli and others had in-depth talks trying to convince The Connor Group to make the new school a part of Dayton Public Schools.

“I’m proud of all the work you tried to put into this to convince the good folks at The Connor Group to join DPS first,” Al-Hamdani said to Lolli. “You had … a lot of meetings to try to convince them that the right thing to do would be to join the district. I’m disappointed that they decided to go a different route.”

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The letter from Kids & Community Partners said their $500,000 donation for student-focused DPS programming is a “demonstration of our belief that a strong public school system is a key to the future prosperity of our city.”

Lolli said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and City Manager Shelley Dickstein were “extremely helpful” in reaching the terms of DPS’ agreement with The Connor Group. Al-Hamdani said it’s just a consolation that the new school can only draw 40% of its enrollment from DPS.

“I’m glad that at least we came to some sort of agreement where they won’t target 100% of our students to their building,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue providing the services our families need so they can stay in our district.”

There are currently more than 22,000 K-12 students living in the Dayton Public Schools geography. Ohio Department of Education data lists about 12,500 as DPS students, 6,700 as charter school students and 2,900 attending private schools via state vouchers.

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