- As student demographics and needs change, more school districts are becoming community centers rather than just education centers, District Administration reports.
- Union Public Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is now partnering with other organizations to provide additional wraparound services and supports like mental health care, nutritional programs, medical clinics and expanded early childhood and adult education options, in addition to developing a 32-acre “community school village.” The Los Angeles Unified School District has embraced a similar concept as a more holistic way of supporting students and their families, helping them overcome barriers of time and transportation that prevent many from accessing the resources needed to improve their chances of success.
- While funding is a consideration for administrators, many of these services are already funded through Medicaid or other state programs designed to support vulnerable students, and if school leaders can establish strategic partnerships with existing organizations, community partners, and universities, they can expand services without a lot of additional outlay from their districts in many cases.
According to The Edvocate, schools have historically played a role in addressing issues concerning child welfare. During the Great Migration of 1880-1924, for instance, a large number of impoverished children, many of them immigrants, gravitated to urban schools.
Because schools are natural centers for the community, it makes sense that they become hubs for community services. The idea is also practical, not only for families who benefit from the convenience, but also for taxpayers because expensive school facilities are serving more than one purpose. Community organizations, existing health care facilities, social workers and universities also benefit from easy access to a client base.
However, one of the biggest benefits for schools should be the effect on attendance and student achievement. Poverty is one of the biggest factors impacting these issues, so by providing services that address the needs of students, schools stand a better chance of keeping students in class and learning for longer periods of time. The community school approach can be a strategy for addressing equity issues and improving opportunities for traditionally underserved students.
As the community school movement grows, more states are seeing the wisdom in funding the model. Grants are also sometimes available to help jump-start the efforts. These services are usually sustainable because they are funded from other sources anyway. They simply need a home base at schools to operate. Schools can find more information by researching strategies, connecting with organizations that support community schools, and observing successful models in existing school districts.