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It’s time to reimagine the school campus as a community center

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Original article written by Kate Mraw for EdSource.

Since the pandemic began last March, schools have needed to played a key role in providing resources and support to families beyond the needs of students. Last May, a survey of education leaders conducted by EdSource's research team found 85% of district administrators were most concerned about community health and wellness as they return to school. When asked to rank their top concerns, health and sanitation was number one, followed by pedagogy and facility use (7.7%) and finance and operations (7.7%). The article poses the questions, what if we incorporate wellness centers and clinics into more campuses? What about support spaces for parents? It makes sense to explore opportunities to co-locate on campus services such as libraries and health services, which can serve the greater community.

The idea of expanding the purpose of schooling beyond a narrow academic focus is not new. It began as a counterweight to mass education in the early 1900s, when education philosopher and reformer John Dewey championed the concept of reorienting the role of schools within the broader society. In recent years, the community schools movement emerged as a strategy for equitable school improvement through integrated student support, expanded learning time, community engagement and collaborative leadership. But when students are not in school because of a pandemic, how are those resources — whether it’s Wi-Fi, nutrition or a sense of belonging — provided to the community? An open approach to school planning and design can support families, local culture and health services year-round.

Communities and schools share a common goal of instilling in students a sense of civic and social responsibility. When student learning is connected to the community, we are developing learners with greater sense of empathy and understanding of the world around them. The article poses that now is the time to reexamine how schools operate and rethink how space is allocated. Mraw ends on a note of hope for the future of community schools, "There’s been tremendous progress in the last decade on focusing on the needs of the students and using research as the guide to develop more collaborative and inspiring learning environments. Let’s not slip backward. We can keep our students safe and still find ways to open the campus to the community."

To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

To read the Foundation's piece regarding the importance of School-Based Health Centers in Building Community Schools, CLICK HERE.


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