urban community school opens new $6.3m middle school, increases enrollment

Urban Community School, an urban K-8 school founded in 1968, just celebrated the grand opening of a new, $6.3 million middle school. The new facility will allow UCS to serve an additional 150 students per year, bringing the total to 600.

UCS, which is considered a high-performing private school, has a mission of helping low-income students become high achievers. The school is an anchor on Lorain Avenue, which is experiencing a shot-in-the-arm of new business investment.

"Our long-term vision since 2000 has been serving more kids with a unified campus," said Sister Maureen Doyle, the head of the school, at the ribbon cutting ceremony. "Our goal is to inspire children and teachers to achieve."

UCS broke ground on its Lorain Avenue campus a decade ago. The project required tearing down a historic but dilapidated building that was donated to the school. The green-built facility opened in 2005, but the school still had a long waiting list. The new middle school caps off that decade-long expansion effort.

The middle school expansion was made possible by a lead gift of $5 million followed by a campaign that raised $16.6 million. UCS will complete the project this month.

The facility allows middle school students to have their own separate wing. It features large classrooms designed for collaborative learning and gathering spaces outside the classrooms for studying or group work. The curriculum has also been redesigned to focus more on project work and social development. Science, math and the principles behind STEAM are also a strong focus area.

At the ribbon cutting, Natalie Celeste, Vice Principal of the middle school, outlined how the building's design helps facilitate learning. "We researched what adolescents need to learn best. They're becoming community members in an abstract world. Adolescents need to be able to practice community."

In addition to the new classroom and learning spaces, the building also features a new, larger middle school cafeteria. A new program gives every middle school student access to a personal iPad at school. Finally, the campus features a new middle school playground, learning garden and outdoor classroom. Through a partnership with Refugee Response, students learn about urban farming.
 

Read more articles by Lee Chilcote.

Lee Chilcote is founder and editor of The Land. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. His writing has been published by Vanity Fair, Next City, Belt and many literary journals as well as in The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, The Cleveland Anthology and A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. He is a founder and former executive director of Literary Cleveland. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.
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