It could involve some of the largest educational entities in the state: Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College, the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties and the Omaha Public Schools.
Officials think their collaboration to target social ills in northeast Omaha could become nothing less than a model for the nation.
On Monday, Learning Community and OPS officials unveiled to an OPS board committee a long-term plan centered on two Omaha elementary schools.
The partnership would make the schools — Conestoga Magnet School and Kellom Elementary — one campus by next fall. That campus would employ the latest anti-poverty educational ideas: more early childhood programs, a longer school day and an extended school year.
“We know that our students need more time to learn,” said Carla Noerrlinger, OPS director of research and special projects.
Creighton professors could train elementary teachers in the best ways to weaken poverty's grip on student achievement. Student teachers and OPS teachers could pursue educational degrees related to urban education.
“In my head, I think ‘I want it for everyone,'” said Bambi Bartek, OPS board member.
Some of the groups involved — members of the OPS Student Assignment Plan Writing Team and Learning Community Subcouncil No. 2 officials — have batted around variations of this idea for the past two years.
The two schools were chosen largely because of their proximity and similar demographics. Conestoga, 2115 Burdette St., and Kellom, 1311 N. 24th St., are less than a mile apart. About 90 percent of their students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, an indicator of poverty.
As part of the plan, Kellom would become an early childhood school, educating children from age 3 to first grade. That would include two years of early childhood programming.
Students would then transfer to Conestoga, where they would stay until the sixth grade.
Students' first-grade teachers could follow the students to Conestoga and teach them in second grade to help ease the transition, said Janice Garnett, OPS assistant superintendent for human resources.
The extended day and longer school year would look much like the schedule at OPS's Wilson Focus School. Students attend for 190 days and arrive about 7:30 a.m. and have regular classes from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with optional enrichment courses until 4:45 p.m.
When they weren't beaming over the “well thought-out plan,” OPS board members and officials conceded much work needs to be done.
Creighton officials said it was too early to comment.
The Conestoga and Kellom staffs were being notified of the possibility Monday afternoon, hours after the OPS board committee was briefed on the idea.
“No matter how beautiful this looks,” said Barbara Velázquez, OPS board member, people “don't like change.”
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