If a full year of school during a pandemic taught us anything, it’s that public schools are pillars of their communities.
Educators and staff have stepped up in ways they never could’ve imagined, from delivering lunches to coordinating vaccines.
What really shone through is that public schools following the community school strategy were some of the most resilient. (Don’t know what a community school is? Here’s an explainer video.)
Here are just a few examples:
- By May of last year, Southside K-8 School in the town of War, West Virginia, had delivered nearly 40,000 books to students sheltering at home.
- By September, Los Angeles’s 93rd Street Steam Academy, located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, was distributing food to 300 families twice a month.
- Enos Garcia Elementary in Taos, New Mexico, has been providing families with food, clothing, assistance with paying bills, basic computer training, and English as a second language (ESL) classes based on needs assessments school staff conducted when the pandemic began.
- Club Boulevard Elementary in Durham, North Carolina, used an innovative app to communicate with parents as the local school district navigated moving between online and in-person schooling. This streamlined the school’s distribution of computers to students and tech support concerning education technology.
- Arrey Elementary in rural New Mexico has been providing COVID-19 health information and testing services to its surrounding community. In May, it coordinated with the local health department to administer vaccines.
Meanwhile, funding and support for the community school strategy is growing.
President Biden is proposing $443 million for community schools in his education budget, 15 times the current level of federal spending.
California used $45 million in federal COVID-19 relief to start a competitive grant program for expanding community schools. Cincinnati’s school district used the relief to offer students summer learning programs that address learning loss due to the pandemic.
We should use this summer break to reimagine not only what public education looks like but also the role of public schools in their communities.
Community schools are a promising strategy. Especially given the widespread trauma and instability so many have experienced over the past year.
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages.