Community Schools are a center for the community – open all day, every day, to everyone – that brings together academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement under one roof, leading to improved learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.
A Community School is a set of partnerships that brings about a place of learning to help students overcome the barriers that cause them to lose focus and hope. What sets these schools apart is their emphasis on caring for and uplifting all of a child’s various needs (academic, health, nutritional, psychological, etc.) The schools are able to do this through the collaboration of several partners and volunteers, from pediatricians and dentists to mentors, and it is all provided on the school campus. By providing these comprehensive services, Community Schools strengthen students, support parents and build up neighborhoods.
Community Schools recognize that students cannot focus inside the classroom if their basic needs are not being met outside the classroom. Students who are hungry, sick, anxious, or troubled may be too overwhelmed to learn. At the more than 8,000 Community Schools across the nation, their troubles are acknowledged and addressed leading to lower absentee rates, better grades and behavior, higher enrollment in college preparatory courses, and higher graduation rates.
Educators engage students with challenging, culturally-relevant material, providing tools to analyze and learn. Classes include Advance Placement courses, Honors classes, languages, arts, physical education, and before & after-school programs, English language learning, special education, GED prep, and job-training for students, parents, and other community members.
Standardized tests are not the focus. Instead, community schools focus on teaching problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills. Educators are given opportunities to spend time together analyzing, improving their skills and approaches.
In community schools, leadership is a responsibility shared by school principal with the Community School Coordinator and a Community School Committee of parents, community partners, school staff, youth, and other stakeholders.
These schools are the hubs of the community, in support of student learning. They are responsive to community needs by providing meals, healthcare, mental-health counseling, and other services before, during, and after-school.
Community schools foster positive, healthy school climates, helping students to learn from mistakes by moving away from zero-tolerance policies that promote suspension, expulsion and toward “restorative“ practices to address behavioral issues and improve school climate.
In community schools, families, parents and other community members are partners with educators whose expertise and experience and valued and respected, and together with other partners they all have a voice in the learning community.