I bumped into James Ragland, almost literally, in the entry space of the elegant Columbus public library. The library can be a meeting place of sorts, intentional or serendipitous, as was this near-collision. The library’s CEO, Patrick Losinski, had told me about the Cristo Rey Columbus High School when, as if on cue, the school’s development director Ragland rounded the corner. Ragland was at the library to work out some of the ways the school and library might cooperate, one of the many collaborations underway between the school and city institutions like the art museum and universities.
The school had barely opened that early September week, welcoming back the inaugural class, now tenth graders, who had been lodged in temporary quarters last year while the building was under renovation, as well as the new ninth graders. Ragland invited me to visit the school, and I was there the next morning.
The school’s new home, formerly the Ohio School for the Deaf, which had moved to a bigger campus out toward the suburbs, was right next door to the library. The building had some of that new-car smell. The old wooden floors were polished to a radiant gleam; the paint was fresh; the big windows were sparkling; the rows of student lockers were unscratched. A massive 20 million dollar renovation was still underway, now focusing on the upper-floor science labs and arts studios. The majority of its funding came from a creative combination of state and federal tax credits for historic building preservation and new job creation. Most of the rest came as a loan from the local Catholic diocese.