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Pomona Unified School District Constructs a Village at Indian Hill
Pomona, CA -- No one knows for sure how many students will appear on the first day of elementary school in the Pomona Unified School District. At the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the region first became known for its citrus orchards. Today, it is home to the Los Angeles County Fair and a diverse population of 150,000 people with a majority (54%) Hispanic population.
The low cost of living draws new immigrants to the community, but they move on when they can and others take their place. The school system must accommodate a transient population with limited English speaking skills where most households live below the poverty line. Preparing a school for an unknown number of students (often varying from 1,000 to 3,000) adds to the special challenges for this district.
From Business to Books
The transformation from failed retail space to community center required a rethinking of education space, education funding, and ultimately, the education experience for both K-12 students and the surrounding community. The result is a flex space elementary school, an academy-based high school, and much needed retail space for service-oriented businesses and community organizations such as HeadStart, a NASA/JPL Research Center and a local history museum.
The flex space enables the district to bus elementary students from overcrowded schools to a safe, secure learning environment. In fall 2001, 1,800 students attended elementary classes at Pueblo East, Pueblo North and Pueblo South. The Village Academy High School occupies a separate "compartment" of the same facility and will support 400 students.
According to Raymond G. Harder, Director of the Technology and Media Academy: "We are training students to become skilled workers in addition to well-educated citizens. Our business partners help us hone our curriculum to prepare students for careers. This facility brings the educational system and the business community side by side in a way that benefits both."
New Funding Models
The foundation has two primary revenue streams: leasing of commercial space within the mall complex and rental of the high-tech conference facilities. Retail companies lease space in the complex and may provide applied learning opportunities for students enrolled in the academy programs. In partnership with the nearby Sheraton Fairplex, the foundation also manages a high-tech conference facility.
"We're bringing money into the school system with creative leasing," says Harder. "We provide the conference facilities, high-tech equipment, and technical expertise. As we train our students, they will earn credits and cash by offering their services, skills and expertise to local businesses and even back to the district."
Traditional Funding Sources
Partnerships with corporations, educational institutions and other non-profits further strengthen the community and provide resources. By opening the facility to adult education at night, the district splits the cost of equipment with higher education partners and brings a much-needed service to the community. The school has also attracted grants and partnership programs from companies such as: Apple, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Compaq, CompUSA, NASA/JPL, and many more.
A Community Vision