It has been an exciting start to the new school year over at One City Learning Center on Madison’s South Side. In addition to all of the usual back-to-school hustle and bustle, One City has undergone significant renovations and remodeling.
Over the course of the summer, One City put a new stairwell in on the south side of the building so that families will be able to enter the building from the south end. The lower level of the building has also been upgraded along with a new paint job for the building’s exterior. Overall, over $100,000 of renovations have been added.
“We fixed up the back playground and created an area with grass and mounds on it so that kids could run and tumble,” One City CEO Kaleem Caire told Madison365. “We took out the garden spot and put that elsewhere. We also put in a basketball hoop for the kids and painted the outside of our building with some of our brand colors.”
Caire feels like the upgrades help the ambience and beauty of the facility which makes going to school there more fun for staff and students alike. Caire says the outdoor area is particularly striking and is planning on installing an outdoor art area as well, which he calls a significant change to the decor of One City.
Cosmetics aren’t the only changes One City has undergone recently. In February, One City earned a charter that will allow the school to receive state funding. The charter partners One City with the University of Wisconsin and will expand the learning center into a 4k and 5k charter.
The University of Wisconsin has a program that allows independent schools to receive state funding, with the state providing approximately $8,500 per student.
One City is currently one of only two schools that are being chartered by the UW.
“The charter is looking good,” Caire told Madison365. “We’ve got 65 kids. We have a full complement of teachers. Parents are happy, kids are happy. They’re excited. We had a good first day of school! You can see the joy on their faces.”
Caire has deftly navigated the issue of creating a charter for One City and has overcome varying degrees of scrutiny about his attempts for creating a Madison-based charter. Caire has built One City from the ground up and now, in just a few short years, has nearly everything exactly the way he envisioned it.
“We started out with a big vision for the school,” he said. “We’ve completed the first part of it. We got the preschool started with fifty families. We had fifty-four kids. With public charters, they don’t have a lot of space limitations. We want families to get engaged with enrolling their children.”
Perhaps the best part of it for Caire is the level of diversity he sees at One City this year. Caire says that at last count they had good mixture of kids, 70 percent of whom he estimated as being African-American, 22 percent were white, and 8 percent who identified as Asian or Latino.
“It’s diverse,” Caire said. “People said that white families won’t bring their children here, but they have. They’re seeking out good things for their children. We want diversity in our school. We have families from Westport and Middleton with kids here. We have a student from Oregon. This can be for kids from all over Wisconsin, not just Madison, since this charter is with UW.”
One City also remains a staple in the community on Madison’s South Side and derives a huge percentage of students from the community right around the school. Families of color have found Madison to be a challenging place to find programming that is right for their children, and One City has built a solid reputation of both believing in and nurturing children of color over the years.
As for the future, Caire said he is already working on expanding the program with a possible move to include students all the way up to Grade Six.
“This year is important for us,” he said. “All eyes are gonna be on us to see how we do. We’ve gotten good support.”