Then: In 1997, CityBeat's "Stories of Eighth and State" looked at Lower Price Hill through the eyes of several neighborhood institutions, including Oyler Elementary. "Oyler stands alone as Lower Price Hill's last, true community building," Steve Ramos reported. In an area riddled with challenges, Oyler seemed to be getting a few things right, including providing students with meals and a safe place to learn and play. At that time, the school shared a student body with Washington Park Elementary in Over-the-Rhine as an attempt to integrate the schools. (Issue of Dec. 11, 1997)
Now: Oyler is still the only true community building in Lower Price Hill, reports principal Craig Hockenberry, and its students still are among the poorest in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). The school provides breakfast to all and lunch to most, but a lot has changed since 1997.
First, students from Washington Park are no longer bussed to Oyler. "It just didn't work out," Hockenberry says. "There used to be hundreds, and now there are about 10." He explains that taking students out of their neighborhood ruined the connection to their school and as a result, "there were problems.
The change back has been positive for both (schools)."
Hockenberry also reports that there are more things for kids to do after school and during the summer now than there were in 1997. He doesn't take credit for the change, but is happy to see "everyone working together. There's a lot more involvement now." Oyler currently offers about 15 after-school programs, including sports teams.
Finally, Hockenberry and the Board of Education are tackling what he believes to be one of the major stumbling blocks that still remains in Oyler's path to academic success: retention of students beyond Oyler's doors. "We're looking forward to getting consideration to be a pre-school through 12th grade institution," Hockenberry says. The school currently serves students in preschool through the eighth grade, when most choose to attend Western Hills High School. "We struggle with sending kids to high school," he sighs. "A lot drop out."
Hockenberry has seen the success of a similar change in the East End and hopes that CPS and the state will allow Oyler to follow suit. "We think it will make a drastic change."
With a new building on the way in about 18 months thanks to the district's renovation plan, Oyler remains at the center of Lower Price Hill.
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