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Learning thrives when students’ basic needs are met by community schools

“We had a high suspension rate. Unfortunately, MLK had the highest referral rate for disciplinary action across the district,” said Leslie Hu, MLK’s community school coordinator, who noted that standardized test scores were very high. added that it was low. The principal wanted to incorporate PBL, but knew that students were distracted because they lacked basic needs that they could not meet at home. Moving to a community school model helped students with needs such as food and medical care, and allowed teachers like Founds to spend more time developing teaching practices.

Schools are usually not designed to provide more than instruction, By addressing basic needsthey are finding that students are able to learn better. cincinnati public schools learning center, Oakland Unified School District And even LeBron James i promise school A community school in Akron, Ohio provides a framework that helps bridge the academic gap and improve student achievement.

“The community school approach is where we tap into the resources that we believe children and families need to truly succeed,” said Dr. Angela Diaz, Director of Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. .

For example, community schools can help families access their health and safety needs by offering on-campus clinics, dental services, meal programs, and counselor services.

Some schools, like San Francisco’s Buena Vista Horace Mann (BVHM), even go so far as to create shelters for families who don’t have on-campus housing. Other schools that provide shelter include: Sugar Hill Project in New York When Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

Community school coordinators find organizations that provide what families need and partner with them to make access to expertise and funding. At MLK, school begins with food.

food and nutrition services

Before MLK became a community school, teachers worked hard to help students suffering from trauma and food insecurity. “As a teacher, you are in a position to identify many of your students’ needs,” says Founds. “I read assignments that reveal students really struggle with mental health, and I know kids are hungry all the time.” , kept on hand for hungry students. If it’s the teacher’s job to fill in the gaps for the students, it leads to burnout and an inability to focus on school work.

Free or discounted lunch programs have been around since the 1940s to help families and most people. 30 million children nationwide Depends on these programs. Food insecurity continues to affect her 10% of U.S. children, leading to lower academic performance and an increased likelihood of behavioral problems. When MLK transitioned to a community school model, they expanded support for the student and family beyond free or low-cost lunches to include breakfast in the school program and meals throughout her day.

Over the past six years, MLK has built over 50 partnerships including organizations such as: huckleberry youth Provide caseworkers to ensure families have access to affordable food. “Our teachers no longer have to be social workers. We have a program for that, so we stash socks in the closet to give to young people,” said Fu, the school coordinator. No need to.

Health & Wellness Service

MLK distributed a comprehensive health assessment questionnaire that included questions on how long students slept and how often they exercised. A survey found that many of their students were stressed. “We knew their health impacted their ability to learn and stay focused. [and] We will keep the information,” said Hu.

Assessment results were shared across the school, and MLK partnered with the Beacon organization to support student mental health and wellness. Beacon held a Community Day to celebrate student achievements. They also offered a push-in service. “If a student is being escalated within a class instead of being kicked out, or instead of continuing to escalate and disrupt learning, when they make a phone call, a support member will come to the classroom and de-escalate. so she can continue teaching in her class and other students can learn too.

“Students are getting better service,” says Founds. “It frees up time and mental capacity to think, ‘OK, what is the best project to engage students and how can we offer a differentiated curriculum to support different learners?’ In election years, she tasked students with researching local representatives or ballot measures to increase voter engagement in school-wide events. We could invite local candidates and local supervisors, and a lot of people actually showed up on that election night. It goes from stuff to something like, “Oh, you’re actually meeting people who could be your future representatives.”

MLK students distribute ‘Yes to Proposition D’ pamphlet (Courtesy of Jennifer Founds)

According to Foundes, the use of the community school model was closely related to PBL. “One supports the other.” The student performed better on tests in math and English language subjects, improving his academic performance by 9%, outperforming the rest of the district. Also, MLK’s teacher turnover rate has improved, previously he was at 61%.

housing and shelter

Each community school is different because the services they offer vary according to the needs of the community. Buena Vista Horace Mann is a kindergarten through his eighth grade Spanish immersion school community in San Francisco. With a large population of recent immigrants and low-income students, BVHM used a community school model to provide them with much-needed food, healthcare and mental health services. They had already partnered with local mental health agencies and local food banks, but found housing to be an issue for many student families.

“I saw a lot of families in shelters, homeless people, in cars,” said community school coordinator Nick Chandler, recalling one family asking him.

1 in 5 California students have experienced homelessness Post-pandemic unemployment has increased that number.Latino immigrant experience High risk of housing instability According to the MacArthur Foundation report, there are many more barriers to getting help, including language barriers. Local shelters did not have enough beds for their families, and many Latino caregivers were reluctant to go to shelters.

Students experiencing homelessness more likely to be chronically absent and less likely to graduate from high school“The brain cannot absorb the best teachers in the world without addressing these underlying challenges,” says Chandler. So Chandler and school leaders suggested turning the school gymnasium into an emergency shelter for families.

Before launching the service four years ago, they held an all-school meeting to discuss the possibilities. Latino and lower-income families who were previously less vocal supported the shelters, while wealthier families, often white, opposed it. Power dynamics mirror state power dynamics,” Chandler said of community meetings. I lost my balance.”

“There was a stigma about who homeless people were. When you think of homeless people, you think of addiction and violence. Rodriguez said in Spanish. She has three children who attend BVHM.

To address your concerns, BVHM has created a website with all questions Asked at a meeting and how they answered. About 200 questions were shared and answered in English and Spanish. In response to hygiene questions, BVHM assured the family that the gym would be cleaned every morning. Those concerned about safety were told that a security guard would be present during the hours the shelter was open. Parents were also assured that running the space would not cost the school any additional costs.

“The more meetings we had, the more we learned about space rules and how shelters support families. After they said it would be available, I became more calm.

BVHM decided to convert the gym into a shelter that operates from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am and operates in partnership with a local housing organization. “Our family has a place to rest. [students] I know that when I come to school, I have a place to sleep,” Chandler said. Accommodates up to 20 families at once. Your family must have a student enrolled in the San Francisco Unified School District. This year will be his third year with their “Stay” shelter program.

Some families left the school after shelters were opened. “There have been changes in our population, so we have fewer white students than we did five years ago.

For parents who stayed, this process of discussing the shelter built trust between the family and the school. Parents felt BVHM was committed to bridging the gap and being her net of safety as the family navigated through difficult times.

“When you think about what a community school is, I don’t think every community school needs a homeless shelter,” Chandler said. “I think that willingness to open up that space and allow families to determine the needs of the community and use that information to advocate for resources is what community schools are all about.”

From free or discounted lunches, to after-school programs and buses, the school is constantly evolving to help families with special needs. Community schools and their whole-child focus are the next step in expanding schools to meet the needs of families. Children are required to attend school, providing resources for caregivers with tight schedules and an accessible place for students to continue learning what they need to know.

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