Community schools are meant to serve the unique needs of individual students, families and communities. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, a panacea or a single answer to address these needs.
Included below, however, are some fundamentals (see AFT’s brochure on community schools for more information).
1. Community schools provide more than one type of service to students and the community. Better yet, the services are unique to each school and community, and will most likely change over time as the needs of your student and family population changes. Examples of these services could include:
- Academic services like tutoring, community-based learning and other enrichment activities;
- Medical services like primary, vision, dental and nutritional services;
- Mental health services like counseling and psychiatrists; and
- Adult education classes.
2. Community schools better support and enable a strong, academic curriculum. Strong ties with the community lead to more partnerships and programs outside the classroom, which in turn can be utilized to directly support instruction and empower students to learn. Examples include project-based learning and service learning activities.
3. Partnerships are coordinated and purposeful. The community school infrastructure enables the coordination and integration of programs that enrich and support learning and instruction while meeting the needs of students, families and the community.
4. Community schools share a vision and mission and are results-driven. Everyone involved—community partners, families, school staff and administration—shares responsibility for accountability and continuous improvement. The results are not just focused on academics, but also include the non-school-related outcomes.
5. A site resource coordinator makes sure that all of the service and community providers are working together, focusing on the same set of results to ensure that students are getting the service most attuned to their needs. The coordinators are the glue and the anchor for the community school. They have strong relationships with school staff, parents, administrators and the community.
6. Community schools work with students but also engage families and communities. When families and community members are a part of the process of planning and implementing a community school, they begin to have a deeper investment and ownership in the success of their own children and the school community.
7. Effective community schools are governed at the local level, and decisions are made by consulting with all stakeholders, including teachers and other school staff. Teachers and school staff are often the best acquainted with students and their particular needs, so your input on the local site decision-making team (local governing team, etc.) is invaluable.