District agrees to neighborhood enrollment
After almost a year of negotiations, Southside STAY has gotten its wish.
Officials with Columbus City Schools have agreed to create a partial neighborhood-enrollment system at Stewart Alternative Elementary School in German Village.
Jessica Bennett, chairwoman of STAY, said the parent-led group is "excited and hopeful for the future of Stewart."
"We are grateful to the leadership at Columbus City Schools and the school board members who listened to our needs and worked to make this happen," Bennett said.
"We are also very excited to have the opportunity to send our kids to Stewart," she said.
"The principal and teachers there are outstanding and Stewart is a huge part of the tradition and history of our neighborhood."
Some critical details remain, such as school boundaries and the ratio of lottery and neighborhood students, Bennett said.
STAY's efforts were endorsed by interim Superintendent J. Daniel Good.
"The district cannot achieve its goals in isolation and the change at Stewart Alternative represents the critical importance of community engagement in making sure those needs are met," Good said.
"The district is committed to working with any community group that seeks to improve neighborhood schools."
Southside STAY -- Staying Together to Advance Youth -- was formed last year by parents, educators, business people and others who wanted to support and improve neighborhood schools in the South High School feeder pattern.
Bennett said area parents believed they had few suitable choices when their kids reached school age: move to a different suburb, enroll their children in private schools, allow their children to attend low-performing schools or enter the district's lottery system.
"When we sent out our survey last year, many respondents said they wanted to raise their kids in their current neighborhood, but also, they wanted to be able to walk their kids to a diverse, high-performing school," Bennett said.
"Stewart will now give them that option without having to go through the anxiety of entering the lottery."
Stewart, 40 E. Stewart Ave., is set to reopen next year after being badly damaged in a fire in 2010.
It previously had been a lottery-only school, meaning it was an alternative school students could only attend by applying through the lottery.