By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
The 525 pupils in Faubion Elementary School’s pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade classes will have a new building by 2017, but changes in their educational programs are already taking place.
The changes come from an unusual, cooperative arrangement between the public school and the private Concordia University, a neighbor across Northeast 29th Avenue near Rosa Parks Way.
The program-in-progress is called 3 to PhD, which is shorthand for efforts to enable students to Pursue Highest Dreams.
For the past seven years, ever since Principal LaShawn A. Lee arrived at Faubion and a university faculty member crossed the street to see what she needed, the two schools have worked together to improve the education of their respective students.
The working arrangement will continue, district officials announced, while Faubion students temporarily attend classes for the next two school years at the Tubman School building, 2231 N. Flint Ave., then return to a new building.
For Faubion students, the cooperative arrangement has brought art, music, physical education, a nutrition program, library time and visits from Concordia’s student nurses. Student teachers from Concordia’s College of Education gain hours toward accreditation in Faubion classrooms.
Other Concordia students, who volunteer in the community as a graduation requirement, may tutor youngsters in reading or math. Some help organize activities on the playground.
Whether they are at Faubion as volunteers or budding educators, Lee said, the Concordia students reduce the student-to-adult ratio in a classroom.
“A classroom may have the teacher, a student teacher, a practicum student (one gaining observation hours to become a student teacher) and a volunteer,” Lee said. “They can have small reading groups or work with flash cards or help with hands-on programs.”
When Faubion gained middle grades a half-dozen years ago, Lee said, Concordia and United Way brought eight enrichment programs for sixth through eighth graders. Those include chess, American sign language, choir, drumming, an exercise program, dance, bioengineering and a novel study group, the principal said.
Since Faubion and Concordia began cooperating, reading, science and math scores have risen among the elementary school students, Lee said, and playground behavior referrals have dropped, too.
That’s important for continued progress in a highly diverse school where a high percentage of students come from low-income families. About a third of Faubion students are white, about a third are Latino, about a third are African-American, and the mix also includes a small number of Asian Americans.
At least 20 percent of the students are homeless or without a regular place to live, Lee said. The district’s definition of homeless is a family living in a motel, in a shelter, in transitional housing, in a car or they couch surf with friends or live with relatives.
In addition to a school counselor, Concordia, Faubion and Trillium Family Services jointly secured a grant, which continues through December 2015, for a licensed clinical social worker. She works with families, students and groups of students on a variety of issues, noted Gary Withers, Concordia’s executive vice president for external affairs.
The school district has set aside $29 million from a bond measure to replace the crowded Faubion structure, built in 1950 for 350 students. The new, multi-use building is intended to become a family and neighborhood hub. Concordia also is raising $15.51 million for the new building and contributing land south of the present school property.
The new building will provide spaces for Concordia’s College of Education and Faubion classes, where university students will be teachers-in-training.
“This is a unique way to prepare urban teachers,” Withers said. “Concordia will be developing teachers in much the same way as the medical profession trains doctors.”
The new building will have a “makers space” where students can learn with hands-on projects. The curriculum also will encourage STEAM or science, technology, engineering, art and math proficiency, Withers said.
Spaces for 120 pre-kindergarten students are planned, and an early childhood program for toddlers is a future goal, Withers said. Another goal is a family health center where the university’s nursing and health sciences departments would provide nutrition, exercise and sports science services. Prenatal services would ensure healthy babies, born at a good birth weight to avoid the later school struggles often experienced by low-birth-weight children.
Parents and community members helped plan the new building, and Pamela Dye, the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome, has high praise for the architects and community design group. When she outlined a need for two elevators instead of one, planners understood her concern and a second elevator became part of the plan, she said.
Kimberly Dixon, with two of her six children still at Faubion, sees the cooperative programs as a win-win for both schools, and she is glad to see the enrichment programs arranged with Concordia.
The cooperative plan, she said, “is something that could be modeled elsewhere.”