Thursday, July 23, 2015
Since the creation of the Taft Elementary School Micro Plan in October 2014, much work has been accomplished in a short time.
The plan identified priorities for improving conditions for both residents and students, including addressing blighted homes, deteriorated infrastructure, and safety concerns. Soon after the plan's completion, nearby residents and volunteers came together on Martin Luther King Day in January 2015, to clean up and secure 13 vacant properties immediately around the school. Throughout the winter, YNDC staff collaborated with the Youngstown City School District, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, and City of Youngstown departments to prepare a grant application to ODOT's Safe Routes to School program, which funds infrastructure improvements near schools to increase safety and encourage students to walk and bike to school. The city's application was approved for $200,000 and improvements will be made in 2018. As part of the program, the City's Health Department gave a safety presentation to students and bicycle helmets, provided by ODOT, were distributed to students on National Walk and Bike to School Day. The school operates a 4H program, which received funding from the Raymond John Wean Foundation's Neighborhood SUCCESS Grant program to transform a vacant lot across from the school into a community garden and during the spring, YNDC's AmeriCorps VISTA members worked with the 4H club to get the garden ready for planting. In order to address blighted homes around the school, the City formed an innovative partnership with the 910 Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve to demolish 12 abandoned structures. This partnership is not only the first of its kind in Youngstown, but likely the first in the nation.