Community schools are not a new idea in education, but they’re getting renewed attention as a way to improve student performance in low-income, high-needs urban districts. Governor Andrew Cuomo is launching “NYS Community Schools,” a $15 million grant program to help develop the concept.
Community schools are like neighborhood schools on steroids. The buildings are designed to place the school at the center of health and social services programs. By creating a wraparound environment, promoters of the concept see a way to align education with services and activities that support the whole family.
It’s not unusual to see full service health clinics, libraries, day care centers, and adult education or job training housed in community schools.
Under the governor’s plan, about 30 schools will be selected to receive the first round of grants. The grants are not available to charter schools.
Rochester’s best example of a community school is the Ryan Community Center and School 33. A library and recreation center compliments the school. The $37 million project opened just a few years ago, but was many years in planning.
Community schools are also touted as a way to improve deteriorated city neighborhoods by making the school an anchor of stability.
But the concept works best under the right conditions, starting with high academic standards. In an era of school choice and increasing reliance on charter schools, tax dollars spent on creating neighborhood community schools sounds great, but may not be fruitful.