What does it take to get some of education’s best practices into one school and off the ground?

For the I Promise School, it’s taken one superstar athlete, one force of a foundation, one willing school district, one traveling food truck and at least 35 other community partners that provide an army of volunteers — and millions of dollars in funding.

And that’s just the beginning.

“We’ve brought this amazing family of partners together to eliminate many of the barriers our students and families face, and we believe it’s truly going to change lives,” said Michele Campbell, director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. “... It’s all because of LeBron’s commitment to Akron and his ability to rally people around these kids and support them so they can have a better future.

“That’s how generational change is created, and LeBron, his foundation and our partners are in this for the long haul.”

The I Promise School, opening to 240 academically at-risk third- and fourth-graders on Monday, began as an idea by Akron native and NBA All-Star LeBron James, who is expected to be at the school on opening day. That idea has grown to engulf dozens of partners from the local to national level.

District Treasurer Ryan Pendleton said it’s taken “serious amounts of money to make this program work.”

The school, which is public and part of Akron Public Schools, is costing the district nearly $2.9 million from its general fund to cover the cost of most salaries, benefits, supplies and other base elements of the school.

The I Promise School is receiving the same level of state and local funds per pupil as all other schools in the district.

By 2023, Pendleton estimates the school will cost the district a cumulative total of $8.1 million, but he considers it a “long-term investment” that will lead to smaller class sizes in other schools, better enrollment and improved report card ratings, among other benefits.

Extra features

Every extra feature of the school not covered by the district has been paid for by the foundation and its many partners.

The contributions to the school from the foundation and its partners has amounted to more than $2 million for its physical transformation, additional staffing for smaller class sizes, technology, wraparound supports and other upgrades for the first year, according to the foundation.

Nearly half of the outside funding went toward upgrading the school’s temporary home at 400 W. Market St., a district-owned building that was previously used for other schools. Upgrades include new landscaping and benches outside the school, classroom makeovers and new furniture.

The LeBron James Family Foundation has led the way in time and funding, though officials say the exact amount it’s given is unknown because the support has been a combination of financial and in-kind donations, some of which are still being quantified.

Others in the community, like the Hudson-based Peg’s Foundation, also have made hefty financial contributions.

Peg’s Foundation focuses on funding initiatives to improve mental health in Northeast Ohio, but it directs 10 percent of its annual grant money toward education. Rick Kellar, president of the foundation, said its board of directors “struggled to find a place to invest where we felt we were making significant impact” in education — until they met up with the LeBron James Family Foundation.

Now, Peg’s Foundation is committing $2.5 million to the school over the next five years, primarily for its wraparound support services, but also for whatever the LeBron James Family Foundation deems necessary in its first few years.

“Every dollar that we commit to education for next five years, and potentially past, is going to go to this school,” said Kellar, who is also the president of the Tallmadge Board of Education. “This is the model that could ultimately change what happens in these urban districts for kids not just in Akron, but beyond. We love that we’re going to get a chance to be part of it here.”

Beyond financial

Contributions to the I Promise School have gone beyond financial and have come from new and old partners of the foundation.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has partnered with the foundation the past 11 years, is providing volunteer mentors to pair with parents who earn their GEDs from the foundation’s I Promise Too Program, which will be housed in the I Promise School’s family resource center when it opens.

Others, like the Hudson-based Kaulig Companies, have jumped on as partners since the announcement of the school. The company is sponsoring a media lab that will provide hands-on technology and production experience to students. One of its related companies, LeafFilter, also has donated all the school supplies every student needs this year.

Matt Kaulig, chairman of Kaulig Companies, denied to disclose the financial amount of contributions.

The list of partner contributions goes on: Two Men and a Truck provides vehicles for transportation and moving needs, Swensons provides food regularly for volunteers who have worked on the school, and so on.

“The outpouring of support has truly been incredible,” Campbell said. “Many of our partners have been with us since the beginning, but we’re still constantly overwhelmed by their generosity and their willingness to step in and help with whatever is needed, no questions asked.”

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.