Mary McLeod Bethune Academy
Approximately two blocks southeast of the aged 37th Street School sits its replacement, Mary McLeod Bethune Academy on N. 35th Street. Bethune Academy is at the center of a district-wide initiative to re-establish neighborhood schools throughout Milwaukee. The 70,000 square foot school is a Project of Distinction Award winner.
Now a center for the community, Bethune Academy involves students with different community-based activities and organizations that help children become leaders while letting the community learn from the younger generations. The school also features resources for special education classes that consistently offer full programs for special education needs, from developmental delays to speech and language impairments. Additionally, Bethune Academy offers a full English as a Second Language (ESL) program, a gym, and various after-school clubs such as gardening.
Included in the intent of Bethune Academy was the outdoor paved area for the local farmers' market. While the nearest farmers' market is the Vliet Street Green Market, located at the Washington Park Senior Center, Bethune Academy still fosters social growth for the community. The school is a recipient of the Arts @ Large grant and supports both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. Additionally, the school is a participant in several programs to help combat the substandard success of education on the local population. In the Washington Park neighborhood, the high school dropout rate is more than twice the city average.
The construction of the Bethune Academy has fostered growth in more ways than just education. The new site took what had been private land and opened it up to the public. The 37th Street School's old site is visibly worn down, but it is still owned by the city. As a result, Bethune Academy's construction opens up a variety of options for the now-empty school. The city has not yet reached a decision on how to approach this opportunity.
In addition to vacating the old school and supplying a nexus for community activities, Bethune Academy has also assisted in the revitalization of W. Galena Street. The change from private to public for an entire city block spurs investment in the surrounding housing stock. With both private and public investment in an increasingly dense area adjacent to the natural scene of Washington Park, the area has significant potential for economic, social, infrastructural, and ecological growth.