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What is a community school?
Community schools, sometimes also referred to as full service schools, cater to the basic needs of students and their families and offer extended learning opportunities for both students and parents at the school building, with the ultimate goal of making the school a community hub open seven days a week. The notion of bringing services into schools is not new; the idea has been around since the turn of the century, when settlement house workers used the concept to help meet the needs of the influx of immigrants pouring into cities at the time, led by people like Jane Addams and John Dewey. Also, in the mid-1930s, "lighted schoolhouses" opened in Flint, Michigan, which used empty school buildings at night for student and family programming. These schools, overseen by Charles S. Mott and Frank Manley, are often referred to as the earliest model for today's community schools. Today, hundreds of community schools exist all over the country!
I'm confused...tell me one more time how this all fits together!
We get that it's a little complicated, but don't worry, you'll get it! KSSN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and because we work in all of Kent County, our work is directly related to the Kent ISD. KSSN hires and manages community school coordinators who are in charge of coordinating resources at each of our schools. Coordinators are housed in the school buildings, and principals at each building help to select their coordinator. We also have mental health clinicians in each school, and most schools also have nurses and DHHS Success Coaches on site. DHHS, Spectrum Health, and three local mental health agencies hire and manage these individuals, but since a community school involves everyone equally, they all work together to serve the students and families in their building.
What does it take to start a community school?
The key to any successful community school is relationships. KSSN has worked for years to build relationships with the partners who fund, staff, and support our work across the county. Buy-in from everyone in the school and surrounding community is critical. We have expanded from six pilot schools to 29 schools as of the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. We utilize a targeted universalism approach to reduce the inequities and disparities at schools serving the most vulnerable students in the area. We hope to continue to expand, but our ability to do so depends largely on the funding climate. We rely on a variety of both public and private funders, and each of our schools is required to supply a financial match. If you are a school principal interested in bringing KSSN to your building, reach out to Carol Paine-McGovern, our executive director. The Coalition for Community Schools also has resources you can peruse.
How can I get involved in KSSN's work?
We are always looking for new partners, for volunteers, and for donations. If you work for a community organization or agency that would be a good partner, contact the community school coordinator at the school or schools that would be the best fit for your client base. If you have have clothing, school supplies, furniture, or other physical items to donate and a particular school in mind that you would like them to go to, reach out to that community school coordinator. Coordinators are always looking for volunteers to tutor, help plan and staff events, and offer support--feel free to contact them if you have a few extra hours a week to spend at one of our schools. Remember, time is one of the most valuable donations you can make!
Are you hiring?
Visit our Employment page.
Where can I learn more about the community school model?
There are a multitude of organizations that are doing similar work like we do as KSSN, as well as doing advocacy at the state and federal level, and conducting evaluation and research on the model.
You can start with some of the following:
Coalition for Community Schools
Children's Aid Society
National Center for Community Schools
Communities in Schools
Federation for Community Schools
Harlem Children's Zone
School of the 21st Century
Youth Development Institute Beacons