Community Schools

  • What is a Community School?

    A Community School is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, services, supports and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. (Coalition for Community Schools)

    Community Schools can trace their roots back 100 years or more and were developed based on the idea that the school and the community are closely connected. Community Schools are a research-based strategy for helping students succeed academically and in life. Community Schools focus on addressing social issues, increasing student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. Services provided go beyond health, mental health and dental clinics, extended school hours and counseling. A Community School may not be able to bring all services into a school building but they usually have resources in the community to obtain the necessary services.

    Community Schools are about building relationships. Community Schools serve as a hub that strengthens neighborhoods, families, students and the community to address the inequities facing our students and their families and to help improve student achievement. There is a direct link between success in school and the school environment in which student learning takes place. Students are more likely to achieve their full potential in schools that have a positive school culture and one in which students feel safe and supported.

    Full-service Community Schools offer a full academic program and accessibility to health, mental health and social services at the school, sometimes called wrap-around services. They focus on partnerships between a school and its community to improve the lives of students and to support and strengthen the community.

    A Community School is not a three year grant strategy. A Community School is not a program within the school that may have a short shelf life; the entire school is a Community School. Sustainability planning activities should be specified from the onset of developing a comprehensive and strategic long-term plan for a community school.

  • What programs are offered at a Community School?

    Just as no two schools are alike, there is no “one-size-fits all” community school model. Community Schools always include a focus on a strong academic program as well as expanded learning opportunities and comprehensive support services. A Community School may include any or all of the following programs:

    • Adult education and workforce classes
    • Community building
    • Community-based learning (service, civic, experiential)
    • Comprehensive services: health, mental health, prevention services and family support
    • Early childhood development
    • Family and community engagement
    • Increased learning time and enriched learning opportunities
  • What funding is available for a Community School?

    There are many ways to think about funding Community Schools. Community Schools intentionally leverage federal, state, and local funding streams, both public and private, to provide supports and opportunities that students need. A Community School coordinator is integral to coordinating resources.

    Some funding streams may include:

    • School and/or School District
    • Federal
    • State
    • City or County
    • Private foundation
    • In-kind support
    • Community-based organizations
    • Universities and Colleges
    • Private Foundations
    • Private business
    • Other – be creative
  • How do we start a Community School?

    • A Plan and a Vision

    Planning is essential to starting a Community School.  It’s fine to start small and build gradually. Develop a shared vision and clearly defined goals. Create a plan with specific action steps and timelines in order to start and operate your Community School efficiently. Anticipate potential challenges that could slow down the process and plan ways to overcome them.

    • Needs and Asset Assessment

    A Needs and Asset Assessment of the school and the community is critical to determine what focus is right for a Community School. A needs assessment is a process used to identify the needs of a community school that will drive decision-making. An asset assessment can be used to identify strengths and resources that exist in the community and school and to look at services being provided

    • Build Capacity

    Building the capacity of staff is a prerequisite for success. Creating a shared understanding of the Community Schools strategy among all stakeholders; students, parents, school staff, community members and partners, is necessary to building systemic capacity. Funding professional development that enables people working in schools to collaborate with community partners and federal and state agencies to learn how community schools work and how policy can support them is crucial

    • Develop a Rollout Strategy

    There is a need for extensive planning. Schools do not transform into fully-developed Community Schools overnight, nor are they fully functional over the course of one school year. There is a continuum of development and a great deal of planning and implementation that needs to occur. Frequent communication among all stakeholders will keep everyone informed, involved and up-to-date on the development of the Community School.

  • How can NYSUT help?

    NYSUT can provide guidance to our locals on how to develop community schools based on local needs and can help leverage support from our coalition of allies and outside organizations. NYSUT can also provide high-quality professional development in community schools.

    Connecting with parents and guardians is also crucial. Many Community Schools provide parents and guardians with legal services, health services, counseling or healthy living programs.

    NYSUT offers professional development in a variety of areas including:

    • Labor/Management Collaboration
    • Taking Stock
    • Family –School Capacity Building and Planning
    • Family-School Engagement Visits
    • Family Engagement Linked to Learning
    • Academic Parent Teacher Teams
    • Positive Parent-Teacher Communication
    • Family-School Engagement for English Language Learners
    • An Introduction to Restorative Practices

    NYSUT’s Education and Learning Trust (ELT) offers a variety of professional development and can tailor it to fit the needs of the school.

    NYSUT will continue to advocate for and support federal and state legislation and programs that fund community schools. Community Schools are worth investing in and expanding with a dedicated funding stream.

Related to Community Schools