'Learning Community' Neb. Program Brings Diversity to Some Highly Segregated Public Schools

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fifth-grader Alyx has trouble naming  the "absolute coolest" thing about Wilson Focus School, part of an innovative educational model called the Learning Community that provides students opportunities to attend diverse schools in highly segregated areas.

Alyx says it's not just the snakes and other reptiles, not just the "totally amazing and beautiful" Australian blue-tongued skink caged in her classroom. It's not just her teacher, Mr. Mitchell, "who is so great, who is the best." And it's not just her friend Nolan who is "funny and kind."  But Alyx, who is white and lives in the suburbs, and Nolan, who is African American and lives in Omaha, agree that one of the "coolest" things is as Alyx says, "There are kids from all over. Everywhere."

Well, not quite everywhere. But unlike the typical school in this highly segregated region, or the typical school in many still-segregated communities across the country, Wilson Focus School reaches across two counties to bring together students from a mix of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.  Yet, even with its well-documented successes, the Learning Community is being threatened by public officials who question the value of the diversity it brings.

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