The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news website based out of New York, focused its most recent piece 3,000 miles away on our city and the beleaguered Emeryville Center of Community Life. The project has been over a decade in the making and finally broke ground a year ago. Slated to open its doors to High School students early next year, reports of delays have already surfaced.
The piece casts a critical eye on the plan that was once hailed by the NLC as a “bold vision” but has lately had difficulty convincing the naysayers that it will follow through with its original promise. “Philosophically, I agree with a lot of the concepts,” notes School Board member Christian Patz in the piece “but the execution has not been as promised.” Much of the controversy stems around the eventual consolidation of the beloved Anna Yates Elementary and the close proximity of elementary students with high school students on the compact parcel. The Hechinger Report defines its mission as being focused on inequality and innovation in education.
Feature: Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin showing a visitor the construction site of the Emeryville Center of Community Life (Photo: Kyle Spencer).
Hailed as a ‘bold vision,’ an innovative school plan hits roadblocks
Controversy over a California community center that would unite a school district and a city shows how popular ideas can lose favor once they are executed
By Kyle Spencer
EMERYVILLE, Calif. — The Emeryville Center of Community Life was supposed to be a slick, 150,000-square-foot community schools complex that would assist this city’s neediest students and their families by providing dental, mental health, and tutoring services on the same site where they attended school. It was first proposed more than a decade ago just as the community schools model was becoming increasingly popular.
In 2013, the National League of Cities hailed the Emeryville plan as a “bold vision.” It was also touted in a Fast Company article titled “This Is What It Looks Like When a School Becomes a Community Hub.”
But for folks here in this quirky swath of tech-start-ups, shopping malls and renovated artist studios, the citywide plan has proven to be less of a solution and more of cautionary tale, a lesson in how hard it can be to take a community schools dream and turn it into a workable reality, even when almost everyone likes the idea.
Emeryville’s small size — only two schools and fewer than 800 students — may not be typical of districts experimenting with the community schools idea. Many are in larger, more urban areas. But with the growing interest around the country in community schools, Emeryville’s problems are an important cautionary tale.
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