Storefront Schools

Here’s a novel Idea. Make schools (I’m talking about K-12 here) smaller. They would be easier to control. Better student to teacher ratio. Better security. And closer to home. They would also better reflect the community that surrounds them. We need more schools. The ones we have are usually overcrowded by the time they are built, and they cost millions before they even open their doors. Meanwhile there are lots of empty storefronts in most every large metropolitan city. Excellent space going to waste.  Now, most people will think I am either very naive or quite mad to even suggest this but to those people I say, “what do you suggest?”  More of the status quo? And how is that working? A lot of schoolwork is done online anyway. Or at least it could be. What would it matter if the next classroom is down the hall or down the street? (Of couse I am not suggesting that kids travel from one storefront to another during a schoolday.) I could go into all the advantages of smaller schools but I don’t think I really need to. It would take much less space to list the advantages of Large Overcrowded Schools, wouldn’t it? Now I am not suggesting that we bulldoze the schools that already exist but as cities expand, it is an option. The school that I went to had six “portables” behind the school where practically everyone took at least one class. They each had their own A/C and heat system, plumbing and electricity and porches (and yet they were ‘portable’?)  They were practically freestanding storefronts anyway, And this was in a rather small suburb of Detroit. More than twenty years ago. OK a lot more. And to be honest, having part of your Jr. High that was “portable” really did not gender a lot of confidence in a teenagers mushy mind.

It’s sort of a modern day “Little Red Schoolhouse”. The average storefront could hold 2-3 classes of about 15 kids each or fewer kids in more classes. You could put a couple of different grades in each one and have a few teachers and an administrator in each. Have an overseer that covers a dozen or so schools and a regional “Principal” that oversees a district. As you can probably tell by now I have no experience in the school system except as a pupil, but I think even the most cynical of you can see what I am talking about. I am sure that you cynics can see many problems with a system like this. After all isn’t that what cynics do? But problems can be overcome and most solutions to problems usually bring their own set of problems anyway. It’s just an Idea.


8 Responses

  1. I like where you’re going with this. School is already on a six-day cycle (at least, it is where I am), so specialized classes could be done at different locations on specific days. The problem I see initially is that it would be harder to manage specialized classes, as they most likely wouldn’t be able to offer as many of those specialized classes due to the switching of classes/locations.

    Unless they changed the cycles around a bit and had much longer classes less frequently…

  2. Beardedmonkey,
    Thank you for your comment, actually specialized/advanced placement classes would be prime candidates for a pilot program of this type.

  3. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who is on the cusp of graduating from university as a teacher, and he told me that a similar thing is happening in our city (Winnipeg, Canada). He said it’s at the grade school level, and I have no idea how long it’s been in place.

    If you’re interested in looking into it, the name of one of the schools is Wi Wabigooni School (and yes, that’s the correct spelling, even if Google thinks it’s wrong).

  4. Cool, I will look into it. This internet thing is great isn’t it. I think it is going to catch on. =)


    I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.

  6. I used to teach at Wi Wabigooni as a Reading Clinician. I would have to say it is a unique program. It’s a small alternative classroom for grades 3-6. It allows children,who might otherwise fall through the “cracks”, to succeed in school. The staff are great and are able to guide the students to success in school. It really is a wonderful program and it works.

  7. I read your article with great interest.
    I have been teaching in the South Bronx (an inner city neighborhood in NYC) for my entire career for well over a decade now. My students mostly come in without the basic skills such as knowing how to hold a pencil or write their own names. Very often, English in not the students’ first language. Kids want to learn, but they are often met with resistance on the part of adults who are entrusted with the enormous responsibility of educating our children. The expectations of administrators and teachers is that the students they have in their classes simply can’t learn (even if not always explicitly stated). This belief may be held by others, but it is in no way in congruent with the truth.
    As human beings, we have a hunger and desire to learn. To capitalize on this, I inspire my students to pursue their insatiable appetite to discover the world and the value of an education. My students who couldn’t hold a pencil and were told that they couldn’t learn, graduate on average at a level of two-three full years or better above their respective grade levels. The techniques I employ are very inexpensive and cost effective with a high yield consistent result.
    I am currently setting up my own small private elementary school for those young, intelligent scholars, with the intent to provide an opportunity to attend a top quality private school right within their own neighborhood. Why should a child be denied access to the best possible education just because of a zip code?
    I am inspired by the passion for the value and importance of education and the critical role it plays in the culture. I would like to develop strategies to bring this most important undertaking to a working reality.

    This project is really growing and spreading around. We are aiming to open up by August 2008. There is a huge demand for just this sort of thing, and it’s the first of its kind here in the South Bronx. Most private schools, where they exist fall under two distinct categories: elite private schools, or Catholic schools. Essentially, there are no secular private schools in the inner city. There are so many parents and intelligent young kids out there who are seeking just such an opportunity. The list of potential kids is well over 60 at this point!! We simply don’t have the space or the funds at this point. We have space only for two classes. This will enable parents to have a rational school choice available that simply don’t exist at this point in time. The helplessness and hopelessness that I see and the frustration that kids and parents experience is almost beyond words. However, the success and achievement that my kids and parents experience gives hope and promise to all that is possible and appeals to the best within us all which we should never let go of. It fills me with great pride to bear witness to this fact for well over a decade now.

    I know that this school can do more – for less. We aim to provide an absolutely top quality private school education for significantly lower per-pupil rate than the New York City public schools/Charter Schools/Catholic Schools. Part of it involves thinking smarter.

    To most, this should not sound like a radical concept. However, too many school systems think just about the inputs when they should really look carefully at the outputs. Student achievement is the bottom line and one should never take one’s eye off of it. This does not merely mean to perform well on a high-stakes test. Rather, it means to acquire the ability to think for oneself, make informed choices and possess the skills necessary to lead a productive, responsible and happy life.

    There are so many ways we can make a meaningful impact in a child’s education.

    I can no longer work under the conditions of the current public/charter school system. It is so irrational at this point–all you have to do is pick up a newspaper.
    It’s time for a change.

  8. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

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