What Are the Elements of a Community School?
Community Schools are customizable to the needs and strengths of every school and neighborhood, but they do share these elements in common:
1. Shared Planning and Leadership
Community Schools spend many hours each year inviting teachers, parents, students and community members to the table to create vibrant and relevant community school plans. Needs are addressed, systems are strengthened, teachers are supported, parents are involved and community strengths are leveraged. Leadership is not top-down but is shared by the school and the community, with everyone contributing and everyone responsible for the success of students.
2. Wraparound Student and Family Supports
Many Texas students face barriers to learning, and families face challenges, including housing, employment, access to healthcare, transportation and other basic needs that affect the success of their children. Community Schools bring community resources to the campus to reduce barriers and support student success, making sure every Texas child can be in school every day, ready to learn.
3. High-Quality Academics Preparing Students for College, Career and Citizenship
Through shared planning, community schools dream big and create high-quality academic plans focused on college and career success for all students. Community partners, including business and higher education institutions, join together to bring new programs and mentoring to the campus. Students have opportunities to connect and serve and their communities, laying a foundation for lifelong civic involvement.
4. Strong Early Childhood Education
Community Schools make sure students get a good start through community-based early childhood programs. Through partnerships with community partners and local government, the needs of the community are addressed and gaps in early childhood education are filled. The goal is for every student to start school healthy and ready to learn.
5. Schools Are Community Hubs
Community Schools are open days, nights and weekends for their communities, creating a positive link between community partners and the school. Adult education, community meetings, after school programs and community celebrations all take place on campus.
6. Community Partnerships
Community Schools leverage partners, including business, nonprofit, health, faith-based, higher education, local government, foundations and others, as well as community volunteers and organizations, to bring coordinated supports to the campus. Partnerships are organized, with shared vision, goals and outcomes. Contributions and successes are celebrated. A system is in place to recruit, train and support mentors, tutors and other volunteers.
7. Expanded Learning Opportunities
Community Schools take advantage of after school, summer and other out-of-school time opportunities to provide meaningful learning experiences for students. Community partners and volunteers come together to make sure every child has out-of-school options that meet physical, social and emotional needs. Schools take advantage of programs offered by community partners.
8. Adult Education and Family Engagement
Community Schools are welcoming, and offer a variety of educational opportunities for parents and community. The school may partner with local groups to provide ESL, GED, computer literacy and other classes as needed. Parents are invited to volunteer on campus, and are a part of campus planning.
9. Strategic Alignment
Community Schools have an infrastructure to connect all of the elements in a way that leads to sustainable success. A School Community Partnership Team, consisting of teachers, parents, students and community partners, keeps the community school planning on track, and a full-time staff member acts as the Community School Coordinator.