The proposal for a charter school in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood grew from the recent history of neighborhood development. Beginning in 1986, a large scale housing development project in much of the neighborhood brought a large population of families with young children to the neighborhood. As many of the units in this development were scheduled for Section Eight Housing, the number of children remained large in the immediate future. Approximately half the Cedar Riverside neighborhood resided in the Riverside Plaza Housing Project and the large number of Section Eight units guaranteed a continued population of children.
The dramatic increase in housing for families with children was followed by community activity to provide services for the children.
In 1989, the West Bank Community Development Corporation (CDC) developed a network of day-care houses, using community resources in housing opportunities to respond to the needs of the families. Local service agencies, the Currie Center and the People’s Center, had also increased their programming for children. In the winter of 1991, parents and school teachers in the community began discussing the need for a local school. In May of 1991, the West Bank CDC continued its history of supporting family services and agreed to act as the fiscal agent for the proposed school. With CDC backing, a series of community meetings had been held to access the needs of neighborhood families in regards to a school, and a proposal for a charter school was written. The core collective visions for the school included the following: 1) the school would be easily accessible by the residents of the community; 2) parents’ involvement in shaping and participating in the students’ education would be an essential value; 3) the school would maintain high academic standards; 4) the school would recognize and reflect the diversity of the neighborhood; and 5) the school would provide an education for living together in a diverse community.
Cedar Riverside Community School was founded in 1993 – and is located in the heart of the Cedar Riverside Plaza housing complex. This location has had a powerful impact upon the school’s evolution. The school serves a population overwhelmingly from immigrant families who come from homes where English is not the first language.