While there are numerous Community Schools models in different regions, there is no single program design. But in general, a Community Schools (CS) approach engages partners in a coordinated system that offers a range of supports to children, youth and families before, during and after school.
Partners include educators, health and social service agencies, youth development organizations, parents, volunteers, business, and others. In general:
- The school becomes a “hub” or local focal point for student, family and neighborhood engagement, a place where school-community connections are built and reinforced.
- Programs may include pre-school/early learning, academic support, counseling, student health clinics, family engagement, access to basic services, refugee assistance, evening programs for adults (e.g., parenting support, language and job skills, etc.) and others.
- Broadly speaking, the vision is:
- Children are ready to learn when they enter school and every day thereafter.
- All students learn and achieve to high standards.
- Young people are well prepared for adult roles in the workplace and future families.
- Parents and community members are involved with the school and committed to their own life-long learning.
- Neighborhoods are safe, supportive and engaged.
In a recent survey, we learned there are over 300 community based organizations delivering numerous on-site and off-site services to Seattle students. Currently, a few schools do benefit from a coordinated approach to these services (e.g., the Community Learning Centers in some middle schools and the federally funded Full Services Community Schools Program at two high schools). However, the district and others agree that a system-wide strategy in which providers and schools align to achieve specific goals would reduce fragmentation, improve services and impact academic outcomes.
In partnership with the district, our work to date includes:
- Interviewing other CS projects to benefit from the lessons they learned in start-up and implementation (e.g., Children’s Aid Bureau in New York, Chicago Public Schools, LINC in Independence, Missouri, SUN Schools in Portland, Cincinnati Strive, and Harlem Children’s Zone).
- Surveying and interviewing local service providers to document the number, types and locations of student services, the level of coordination with schools and other providers, and other information.
- Developing a catalog of services that will be posted very soon to the Alliance’s website (we’ll let you know when it’s available).
- Engaging with funders, government officials, higher education and others who may be interested in supporting partnerships between schools and communities (e.g., Seattle Foundation, Seattle University and others).
- Researching national models to learn about the planning and implementation of these initiatives.
- Convening district and community partners to work toward a common vision of what this strategy would look like.
The Seattle School Board continues to study this promising approach as we conduct research and analysis, and engage the community about the model. For further information about the CS strategy in general, visit http://www.communityschools.org/. For local updates, stay tuned to the Alliance blog.
- Karen Tollenaar Demorest, AFE