HOUSTON—Five Houston Independent School District campuses will be converted into “community schools” under the district’s Every Community, Every School initiative. The schools will serve as neighborhood headquarters for a vast array of social, medical, financial and educational services for students and their families.
The five schools are Thomas Middle School and Benavidez, Lockhart, Marshall and Robinson elementary schools.
The creation of the five community schools is made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. HISD, the Houston Federation of Teachers and the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Education played key roles in obtaining the grant. HISD trustees approved utilization of the grant funds at tonight’s board meeting.
In addition to the federal grant money, the American Federation of Teachers’ Innovation Fund has designated $100,000 for community schools work in Texas, with much of it going to the Houston effort.
At community schools, students and their families receive assistance with housing, food, clothing, counseling, legal, medical and dental services. Any issue or need that might keep a student from attending school and thriving academically will be addressed at these five schools.
“I’m ecstatic,” says Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo. “Community schools have a strong track record of leveling the playing field and closing the achievement gap for disadvantaged children. When you can remove some of the obstacles preventing kids from learning, such as anxiety, stress and hunger, kids will thrive. If we continue to focus on strengthening schools and families, we are all going to be successful.”
The federal grant money will be spread over five years. It will fund contracts with various service providers and pay for wraparound service specialists, who serve as case managers and facilitators for students’ families, says Rolando “Rudy” Trevino, the district’s assistant superintendent of wraparound services. The program will have “collective impact” because the grant “addresses the basic needs of our community. Any issue or need that might keep a student from attending school and thriving academically will be addressed at [these five] schools,” Dr. Trevino said.
Key HISD partners at the five community schools will be Communities in Schools, the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Education, the Houston Federation of Teachers, the Houston Food Bank, the Houston City Schools Partnership, Texas Children’s Hospital and various other agencies and skilled professionals.
The program begins immediately and will serve nearly 4,000 students and their families.