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Back to (Community) School

08/23/12

It’s August and a new school year has arrived. August also signals the opening of dozens of new community schools.
 
Across the country, teachers are decorating and preparing classrooms and community school coordinators are lining up community supports for students and their families - all with the goal of aligning school curriculum and community partnerships to prepare our children with 21st century skills and knowledge.
 
Thousands more students, many of them economically-disadvantaged, will have access to the resources they need to succeed right inside their schools thanks to the growth of the community schools strategy.
 
New Schools, Continued Progress
Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is in the process of implementing community schools as part of its district-wide turnaround plan for its lowest-performing schools. It’s based on the approach that worked so effectively at Glencliff High School, a National Community School Excellence Award Winner in 2011.
The Nashville reform plan, called Community Achieves, will open four pilot community schools this fall. The goal set forth by MNPS Superintendent Dr. Jesse Register is to eventually make every school in the district a community school.
 
"Last month we had five additional schools express interest in being a part of Community Achieves. We hope to begin working with them by the end of September," said Alison McArthur, MNPS’s Coordinator for the Community Achieves program.
 
Vancouver Public Schools (VPS), in Vancouver, Washington is adding three more community schools, bringing its total to eleven. VPS redirected $1.5 million to provide high-quality instruction, expanded learning opportunities, and family resources at poverty-affected schools within their designated "Opportunity Zone." Family-Community Resource Centers at each of its community schools coordinate academic and early learning programs, health and social services, and youth and community development activities for students and their families. Vancouver Public Schools have seen an improvement in student achievement, attendance, kindergarten readiness, volunteerism, and parent participation at its Family-Community Resource Centers since 2001.
 
This year, Lincoln Elementary School, Minnehaha Elementary School, and Hazel Dell Elementary, each having 60 percent or more of students receiving free lunch, will become Vancouver’s newest community schools. Now, all elementary schools within the Opportunity Zone will be full service community schools. 
School Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) in Multnomah County, Ore. added three more schools to its already highly-praised network of community schools this year as well – Highland Elementary (Gresham Barlow School District), Wilkes Elementary (Reynolds School District), and Prescott Elementary (Parkrose School District). Several teachers in those schools have already taken it upon themselves to organize home-visits to students’ families even before they found out the community school designation.
 
Ogden School District in Utah is partnering with its local YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and United Way to open four new community schools this fall. Dee, Madison, and Odyssey elementary schools and Mount Ogden Junior High School are the newest community schools in the district.
 
Each school has a community school coordinator who will work as part of the schools' student services team to identify at-risk families, connect those families to needed services, and oversee volunteer programs. The coordinator will also facilitate youth development programs and assist with families through ESL, financial literacy, and healthy living classes.

Each school has summer learning and enrichment programs and an after school program through the either the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. The elementary schools have on-site mental health, income tax assistance, and parent education classes. The elementary schools offer Read Today, a volunteer tutoring program sponsored by media company KSL, United Way of Northern Utah, AmeriCorps, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and numerous businesses.  Mount Ogden Junior High School's Academic Intervention program is funded by United Way.
 
New Community School Systems
California continues to be a hotbed for the growth of the community school strategy. Vallejo Unified School District, which opens five new community schools this year, is in the initial stages of its full-service community school plan. Another California district, Oakland Unified School District, is amidst an aggressive plan to make every school in the district a community as it transforms into a full-service community school district.
 
In New York City, where the Children’s Aid Society has run community schools for nearly a decade (and is opening its first charter community school this fall), teachers spearheaded the charge to bring more community schools to their district. Six public schools, including the recently-constructed Sunset Park High School in Brooklyn, were awarded planning grants to turn their schools into community hubs this year in an effort organized by the United Federation of Teachers. UFT’s grant initiative adds to the eclectic mix of community schools in New York and has financial support from New York’s City Council and school board, as well as one of the city’s leading business groups, Partnership for New York City, signaling an uncommon display of agreement amongst school, government, business, and union leaders in the city.  Existing health clinics inside these schools will be expanded to stay open longer and serve students’ families. These schools will also partner with other local organizations to provide in-depth learning for students. New York’s initiative was drawn largely from Cincinnati’s Community Learning Centers, which has helped make Cincinnati Public Schools the highest-rated urban school district in the state.
 
We wish all of these new schools, communities, families, and students good luck on the exciting start to the new school year and welcome them to the community school movement!
 
Starting a new community school? Tell us about your work.
 
Selection of  Community Schools Opening This Fall
Elsa Widenmann Elementary
Vallejo, California
Loma Vista Environmental Science Academy
Vallejo, California
Solano Middle School
Vallejo, California
Vallejo High School
Vallejo, California
Jesse Bethel High School
Vallejo, California
Southeast School
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Cedar View Elementary School
Grand Rapids, Michigan
PS 30
Manhattan, New York
Community Health Academy of the Heights
Manhattan, New York
PS 188
Brooklyn, New York
Sunset Park High School
Brooklyn, New York
Curtis High School
Staten Island, New York
PS 18
Bronx, New York
Highland Elementary School
Multnomah County, Oregon
Prescott Elementary School
Multnomah County, Oregon
Wilkes Elementary School
Multnomah County, Oregon
Dee Elementary School
Ogden, Utah
Madison Elementary School
Ogden, Utah
Odyssey Elementary School
Ogden, Utah
Mount Ogden Junior High School
Ogden, Utah
Lincoln Elementary School
Vancouver, Washington
Minnehaha Elementary School
Vancouver, Washington
Hazel Dell Elementary School
Vancouver, Washington
 
 


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