ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS. The alternative-schools movement began in the 1960s, when parents began to demand choices in the schooling of their children. Specifically, alternative schools were institutions, often not state-accredited, serving the traditional school population but privately controlled and supported because the traditional systems were not meeting the needs. Cleveland has had several alternative schools. In 1968 Rev. and Mrs. J. David Brostrom started the Calvary Neighborhood School in the Calvary Lutheran Church, using the Montessori approach, with 2 preschool classes serving 50 children. Tuition and funds from the AHS FOUNDATION and Hudson Montessori Ctr. provided financial support. In 1969 these 2 classes, along with an additional class in the Chambers area, incorporated to form United Independent Schools of E. Cleveland (UISEC). Its goals were to develop independent learners and social awareness. By the fall of 1972, there were 7 classes, ages 3-10. The 141 students were predominantly black but integrated economically, socially, and racially from the suburbs and inner city. The Urban Community School, located on the near west side of Cleveland, educated multiracial and multicultural inner city children growing up in a poor environment with substandard housing. It was founded in 1968 when St. Patrick's and St. Malachi's merged into an independent, nonprofit, interdenominational community school. In the public and parochial schools these children, some with learning and emotional problems, faced language barriers and overcrowded classes. In contrast, UCS provided a creative, experimental education, using the near west side community as a learning resource. UCS was nongraded, but primary, intermediate, and junior-high levels were maintained. Many children were Puerto Rican and Appalachian. Children were admitted on a first-come basis, with tuition on a sliding scale. Initially, UCS was operated by the P.M. Foundation, Inc., and supported mainly by a single benefactor. It was still in existence in 1993.
The Street Academy came about as a response to the high number of dropouts in Cleveland's lower-income neighborhoods. The URBAN LEAGUE OF CLEVELAND decided to replicate the street academy program that was operating in New York City. The program had 3 stages: street-academy level, which emphasized basic skills; transition level, which presented a more formalized style of learning; and precollege level, which focused on college preparation. In Mar. 1970, with funding from 3 major foundations and community organizations, the first street academy was opened in GLENVILLE. By November, 2 street academies, a transition academy, and the Circle Prep Academy were in operation. Because of financial difficulty, the Street Academy consolidated in 1972 into 1 site at E. 83rd St. and Euclid Ave. Although the Street Academy lacked state accreditation, diplomas were granted through St. Joseph's High School. The program was structured to provide maximum individual experience, enabling students to graduate in half the required time by eliminating study halls, by requiring only those courses necessary for graduation, and by offering a full summer program and counseling. The Street Academy was absorbed by the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS in 1975 and in 1978 was merged into the work-study program at the Woodland Job Ctr.
The Cleveland Urban Learning Community (CULC) was an alternative school approved through St. Ignatius High School. CULC was known as a "school without walls" because of its philosophy that learning should take place in the community. Fr. Thos. Shea, SJ, was its first director. The main objectives of CULC were to develop more self-direction, responsibility, and an increasing ability to make independent decisions. Working with a resource person, students designed their own courses around real interests, needs, and state requirements. CULC was located on E. 4th St., central to the library, transportation, and other resources. Students were chosen on a lottery basis and did not pay tuition. The school closed in 1982 because of lack of funds and interest. In 1970 a group of Cleveland Hts. professional parents, in the belief that the public schools were inflexible, founded the Friends' School on Cornell Rd. The school developed to serve nonconforming students who were ill served by the existing public schools. There was an individualized approach, with small classes of about 8 students. Later the school moved to Magnolia Dr. and became known as the School on Magnolia. In 1982 it became part of Child Guidance Services, and in 1984 it was renamed the Eleanor Gerson School in a new downtown location at 2055 E. 22nd St. It served emotionally disturbed youth and worked with parents to develop student responsibility for learning. In addition to these schools, there were others that were less successful. The Sunrise Community School opened in 1971, serving 25-40 children with a focus on open classroom, individualized instruction, and an interdisciplinary approach. The Learning Community school also opened in 1971, with a focus on open classroom and individualized instruction, serving about 35-40 students.
Alternative schools gained initial support from foundations and tuitions. Sustaining this financial support became a problem. Furthermore, interest in alternative schools waned as the country became more conservative, causing many to close, though some programs were adopted by public schools. As an offshoot of the alternative-schools movement, some public schools developed alternative programs, or schools within a school. Examples of these were the Concept I program at Beachwood High School, the Roaring 100s at Berea High, Education through Inquiry at Parma High, the New School at Heights High, and Catalyst at Shaker Hts. High. These programs provided alternative choices where students and teachers worked as communities and took more responsibility for learning, and where out-of-school experiences and interdisciplinary programming were encouraged. They also provided excellent models.