When a School is the Very Heart of a Community

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“I don’t want to imagine the devastation my school, Arrey Community Elementary in rural New Mexico, would be experiencing due to the pandemic if we weren’t a community school.

When Covid first hit, we were able to quickly provide computers, hotspots, and other internet services to students who needed help accessing online classes. We had also already established a food bank with connections to local grocery stores. Truckloads of food are delivered to the schools, allowing me to deliver much-needed food to 160 families—with more than 600 mouths to feed—each week.

And that’s just a piece of what our community school does. While our school has fewer than 100 students enrolled, we now provide services to over 180 families in the area. We connect parents with a wide range of community partners providing food, clothing, health care, and other forms of support. We’ve helped families access Covid vaccines and testing. I consider our school a hub for the broader community. Families finally have someone to ask and somewhere to go for help. And if we can’t provide it, we’ll connect them with someone who can.

That’s what makes the community school approach so transformative. Rather than only focusing on educating students, our school aims to be a system of care to support students, families, teachers, and the broader public. If a community requires it, then that’s what a community school provides, with services available to anyone. We don’t do that just because we think it’s the right thing to do. We do it because that’s what parents and teachers have said they need.

Community schools value parent and teacher voices. That’s one of the four ‘pillars’ of the approach. Not only do community schools support the entirety of a student’s well-being, they bring together local nonprofits, businesses, and public services to offer a range of support and opportunities to students, families, and nearby residents. And they engage teachers, parents, and nearby residents in creating a shared vision for the school’s role in the community.”

Read the full story here.

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