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Community Schools: All Together Now!

Community School: A center of the community – open all day, every day, to everyone – that brings together academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement under one roof, leading to improved learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.

A Community School is a set of partnerships that brings about a place of learning to help students overcome the barriers that cause them to lose focus and hope. What sets these schools apart is their emphasis on caring for and uplifting all of a child’s various needs (academic, health, nutritional, psychological, etc. ) The schools are able to do this through the collaboration of several partners and volunteers, from pediatricians and dentists to mentors, and it is all provided on the school campus. By providing these comprehensive services, Community Schools strengthen students, support parents and build up neighborhoods.

Community Schools recognize that students cannot focus inside the classroom if their basic needs are not being met outside the classroom. Students who are hungry, sick, anxious, or troubled may be too overwhelmed to learn. At the more than 5,000 Community Schools across the nation, their troubles are acknowledged and addressed.

The Community School concept has been embraced by single schools; entire school districts, cities, and counties; and, in one case, an entire state (Kentucky). The result has been deeper engagement and greater overall academic success.

Community Schools lead to:

  • lower rates of absenteeism;
  • better work habits, grades, test scores, and behavior;
  • higher enrollment in college preparatory classes; and
  • higher graduation rates.

These schools are often based on the Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) model, which considers the needs of the students and the families in the neighborhood; services that are currently provided at the school; the availability and capabilities of local provider agencies; and the willingness of school personnel to change course and accept a new way of operating.


Creating an Effective Community School

“Our public schools should be more than just centers of education. We must build centers of nurturing and development – centers of innovation – where entire communities can come and learn, thrive, and be supported. It’s not just about education. It’s about partnership and collaboration and leveraging of resources. That’s what a school should be.” -Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President

Every Community School is unique, because every school community is unique. At the outset, educators, in collaboration with families and other stakeholders, must begin by assessing the needs and concerns of students. Together they create a strategic plan that includes the necessary partners to focus on students’ needs and concerns.

They bring on board a Community School Coordinator who implements the strategic plan, in coordination with school staff and other stakeholders. Progress is evaluated regularly and changes are made where necessary.

Community Schools are usually jointly operated through a partnership between the school and at least one lead community agency. Many are open during non-traditional school hours so that the entire community can access health, dental, and mental health services. They often include space for a primary health clinic and a family resource center that may even provide assistance and referrals for adults.

Community Schools that show the most dramatic results generally employ this five-point strategy:

  1. They provide a strong and proven curriculum, engaging students with culturally relevant and challenging material, and offering a robust selection of classes, AP and honors courses, as well as after-school programs in the arts, languages, and ethnic studies, ELL, Special Ed, GED preparation, and job training.
  2. They emphasize high-quality teaching instead of high-stakes testing, enabling teachers to identify and meet students’ needs.
  3. They offer community support services such as health care, mental-health counseling, and other support, before, during, and after school and on the weekends.
  4. They focus on positive discipline practices as well as social and emotional learning supports, resulting in fewer suspensions and harsh punishments.
  5. They feature extensive family and community engagement, involving the full community in planning and decision-making.

Community Schools can help ensure that all students, regardless of ZIP code, receive an education that inspires their natural curiosity, imagination, and desire to learn.

Community School Resources & Links:

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Each community school is unique, responsive to and reflective of the needs and aspirations of the students, families, and communities within its reach. However, the most successful of these schools are built on these "Six Pillars":

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