“These schools are using what’s called the “community school” approach. Community schools are public schools that offer a range of support for students’ well-being to make sure they are healthy, well-fed, safe and in the best position to learn. They also intentionally listen to parents about what students need to thrive, whether it’s dental services or more streetlights.
Yes, streetlights. After becoming a community school, Florida’s Gibsonton Elementary learned from parents that many students felt unsafe walking to and from school in the dark before sunrise. The school, in response, organized an effort to have the local government install new streetlights near campus. Attendance immediately increased — which, along with other factors, helped improve test scores.
Wheaton Woods Elementary in Montgomery County, Maryland, became a community school in 2019 and soon learned that its low-income students needed something different than school leaders had expected. “’We started off thinking our families needed things like food assistance and English classes — providing what we assumed families in poverty need,” the school’s principal told journalist Jeff Bryant last year. “[But] we found out that what we didn’t have was enough out-of-school time and activities for their kids, not enough athletics.’”