An unprecedented partnership of public and alternative schools, public library and social service organizations came together in an impoverished neighborhood to create a campus of shared learning and services supporting student success. The On Track program serving at risk students, a middle school seeking to better support students and families, and the nearby public library and community center joined as partners for change to benefit students, their families, and the community.
Through design team-led engagement sessions, consolidating resources on a shared campus emerged as a goal to provide wrap-around learning and support. Sharing spaces limited the duplication of services and maximized diverse learning opportunities. This included relocating and connecting the library to the middle school. The middle school is organized with a ‘heart of the school’ concept placing the Commons at the center of the school connecting to learning and activity spaces also available for community use beyond the school day. Students and the public access the library at different times. On Track Academy offers individualized support and guidance to academically challenged and socially or emotionally challenged students. Its environment is welcoming and inclusive, locating students near others for a “one room schoolhouse, with a community college feel.” Key to success of the plan was removing physical and perceived barriers including calming a portion of a busy street improving safety for a “walkable campus” strategy.
Locating education and community resources on the same site leveraged funding resulting in a vibrant design that builds school and community pride, belonging, and inclusion for better education experiences and potentially a better way of life for students and their families.