Using the school as a hub, community
schools foster partnerships between educators, families, and community services to expand learning
opportunities to students before and after the school day, and to offer health and social support to families.
Services may include academic support (such as tutoring and mentoring), social services (such as case management
and employment assistance), extracurricular activities, afterschool care, and medical and dental services.
Community schools can address several different social determinants of health (SDOH), including:
- Connecting families with social services
- Supporting educational attainment through family literacy programs
- Improving food access through food banks
- Increasing economic stability and access to jobs
- Improving access to healthcare through onsite health services
The community school model may help to create a more equitable
environment for students to learn and rural communities to thrive. There are several
types of community school models being implemented in rural communities. In every model, the school
serves as the center of the community, and the school building opens its doors to community members
for daily use. For example, Communities in
Schools has developed a model that uses coordinators placed in schools to bring community
resources directly into the school. This approach can help reduce barriers for families to help keep
students in school and improve academic achievement. This model also works to connect schools with
partner organizations to help provide additional resources to children and families.
Examples of Rural Community Schools Addressing SDOH:
Community Schools are serving children and their families in the Greater Lehigh Valley of
Pennsylvania. This approach specifically targets school districts with a high poverty rate. In the
Lehigh Valley there are 14 schools that have built partnerships with local organizations to be
designated as United Way Community Schools. These schools open the school building to the community
before and after the school day, and also have a Community School Director who works in the school
but is employed through a partnering community-based organization. Outside of the traditional
academic programs, these schools connect students and families with food banks, clothing, housing
resources, school supplies, and onsite healthcare services including vision and dental.
County Elementary School in Booneville, Kentucky is one of three examples of successful community
schools featured in a report about rural community schools by the Center
for American Progress. The school serves as a hub for Owsley County events, even serving
as the site for weddings, other community celebrations, and performances. The school works with the
entire community to educate and support children and their families. The school administers
innovative literacy programs and provides students with technology to help improve academic
performance. The school also operates a family resource center, provides health services, and
connects parents with classes to complete their GED and higher education courses.
Molly Stark Elementary School in Bennington, Vermont
is a community school that provides many services to children and their families outside of
traditional academics. In particular, the school provides basic health services to students and
families. A school nurse helps deliver vaccinations and other preventive health interventions. Molly
Stark School also runs a daycare center and preschool, and offers child care and transportation services
during GED classes that parents can take in the evenings. The school also promotes family literacy
and adult education by offering community college courses.
Community schools provide a variety of services to students and their families. These services require
additional funding, training, staff, and buy-in from community members, parents, and school officials. Another
challenge for implementing this model is that local school boards may not always be in favor of delivering such
robust services at schools and may be more focused on preparing students academically.
Resources to Learn More
Provides research, data, and best practices to help build partnerships and implement a Community School.
Organization(s): United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley