Community Schools: What Are They and How Do They Work?

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“Maria Macias is having a pretty good senior year. Macias, a student at Osborne High School, a community school in Marietta, Georgia, appreciates having access to two therapists on campus in case she needs to speak with anyone about her mental health and she appreciates that Osborne allows her to receive credit for her part-time job.

‘I love attending a community school and honestly do not know if I would be following the same path and striving to meet the same goals if I was not attending one,’ Macias told Teen Vogue. “Being here has allowed me to see various points of view on education, politics, and overall life.

The concept of a community school, which has been around for more than a century, is quite simple. Any public school can become a community school if the school board, students, parents, and faculty collectively commit to being involved not only in a child’s education but also in meeting all of a student’s needs. ‘A community school is a decision that students, families, educators, and community members make about the role they want their neighborhood public school to play within the community and within the lives of the stakeholders that touch the school,” a representative from the National Education Association told Teen Vogue in an email. “Because learning never happens in isolation, community schools focus on what students in the community truly need to succeed — whether it’s free, healthy meals; health care; tutoring; mental health counseling; or other tailored services before, during, and after school.’

This model has been gaining popularity in recent years. In 2010, the Oakland, California school superintendent announced his goal of turning all the public schools in the district into community schools. Significant progress has been made toward this goal: According to a study by the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities, approximately one-third of Oakland public school students attended community schools during the 2016–2017 school year. In 2014, as the Center for American Progress noted,  New York City mayor Bill de Blasio committed to the creation of 100 community schools across the city. In July 2021, California invested $3 billion in community schools as a promising approach that can address the holistic needs of students and close persistent equity gaps that COVID-19 laid bare. And the Biden administration provided hundreds of millions in new funding for community schools in the 2022 budget, with U.S. secretary of education Miguel Cardona praising the community school model for improving “student well-being and academic success.”

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