Gainesville 4 All, a local organization formed to address systemic racial inequities and disparities in Alachua County, has announced its plans for a “transformative” family learning center for parents and children facing economic hardships in the Gainesville area.
Nearly five years after Gainesville 4 All was created to address systemic inequities and disparities in Alachua County, the non-profit advocacy organization has completed a strategic plan that has the potential of transforming urban education locally and nationwide, said GNV4ALL executive director James F. Lawrence.
The project is in partnership with Alachua County Public Schools and lies at the heart of Gainesville 4 All’s “Gainesville Empowerment Zone,” an approximately 2.1 square block bordered by Ninth Avenue, Waldo Road, Ninth Street and 16th Avenue that the organization has targeted to confront challenges that face black and low-income families. The zone also contains two of the district’s lowest performing elementary schools in Metcalfe and Rawlings Elementary.
Contained in the plan for the Family Learning Center, Gainesville 4 All cited statistics from the multi-commissioned 2018 report “Understanding Inequities in Alachua County,” which showed an educational performance disparity for black students in Alachua County and, because of this, a need for educational change in the area.
The new project, called the Gainesville Empowerment Zone Family Learning Center, is scheduled to open on Metcalfe Elementary School’s campus in 2022. The center will be housed in a standalone building on the school’s campus that was previously built with the intent of use for small children and toddlers.
“The Gainesville Empowerment Zone Family Learning Center, jointly sponsored by Gainesville for All and Alachua County Public Schools, in its first three to five years will seek to transform public education to meet the needs of struggling local families in the 21st Century,” stated the learning center’s plan.
“The GNV4ALL plan would transform public education by adding research-based early learning programs to the public education menu beginning at pregnancy for struggling families,” the organization said. “While children will be the primary focus of the school, families also will get considerable attention with connections to an array of social and medical services.”
Lawrence said the center plans to accept students starting at six months old and that some spots will be reserved for children of teachers at the schools within the Gainesville Empowerment Zone.
The plan also outlines a timeline for focused development for it’s students in areas such as language and literacy, cognitive (math, science and arts) and approaches to learning. The plan starts for children less than a year old and lasts until age five, about the time the students would begin to enter kindergarten and elementary school.
In addition to performance gains in the organization’s Empowerment Zone and Alachua County, the plan stresses Gainesville 4 All’s goal to establish the Family Learning Center as a model to be replicated.
“It is the aim of the GEZ Family Learning Center to show that similar publicly funded facilities should be opened on public school campuses throughout Alachua County, particularly at schools primarily serving children from low-income families,” the plan reads. “Ultimately, we hope our school, which will be open from 7 am to 6 pm 5 days a week and during ACPS holidays, will serve as a template for school districts statewide and across the nation.”