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University of Tennessee – Knoxville and Pond Gap Elementary School (Knoxville, Tennessee)

As in the case with many of the well-established community school systems around the country, the University of Tennessee started exploring a community school partnership before it even knew what community schools were.
In 2005 Bob Kronick, a counselor of education at the University of Tennessee who spent time as a consultant for the state department of corrections, began writing a book about using schools as service deliverers. He stumbled upon the community schools movement while researching how to improve the Title I schools around Knox County.
After becoming acquainted with the university-assisted community school movement that the University of Pennsylvania's Netter Center for Community Partnerships was instrumental in developing, Kronick helped spearhead an effort to bring community schools to Knoxville. Kronick found an influential supporter in then- incoming Knox County school superintendent James McIntyre who was intimately familiar with community schools after previously serving as Chief Operating Officer of Boston’s public schools.
University of Tennessee piloted a community school partnership with Pond Gap Elementary in 2010 when the principal there expressed interest in implementing the strategy. Ninety percent of Pond Gap’s student body receives free or reduced lunch and a large portion of students are children of immigrant families from 19 different countries. Additional resources were definitely needed, school leaders said.
Through its partnership with the university, Pond Gap now provides an afterschool program open to students five days a week throughout the entire year. The school was also outfitted a new washer and dryers for students’ families and provides ELL and GED classes for parents. Pond Gap also now features a creative array of extra-curricular courses including circus arts, art and music enrichment, a running and fitness program, and partnerships with the Ijams Nature Center and Knoxville Opera. Officials are seeing gains in reading and a decrease in tardiness and behavioral issues.
Advanced graduate students from UT-Knoxville are providing mental health assistance at Pond Gap as part of their service learning.
Thanks to the University of Tennessee community school pilot, Knox County will convert three elementary schools and a middle school into community schools. Knox County leaders have spent time visiting Cincinnati Public School’s successful community school initiative for ideas on how to scale up and structure their own initiative in Knoxville.

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