Following a teachers’ strike in 2019, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUDS) has approved funding to turn 30 schools into community schools to better meet the needs of teachers, students, and their families.
According to LAUSD, “This approach evolves the school site into a hub for the community where families access health, socio-emotional, mental health and enrichment support for students during and following normal school hours.” The concept was first proposed in the 20th century and revolves around combining education with initiatives like immigration counseling and a health food program.
One participating school is East LA’s Farmdale Elementary in El Sereno. As a pilot campus for the community schools model, Farmdale received $150,000 in funding its first year and hired a full-time community school coordinator to facilitate the transition. The school started by establishing a campus garden to feed students and their families and will offer legal aid to help families facing eviction or immigration issues.
Susan Miller Dorsey High School, also in LA, is part of the second cohort of schools making the transition. Their funding, which comes from $25 million cuts to the Los Angeles School Police budget, is being used to reinstate Safe Passage, a chaperone service for students walking to school, as well as a language arts program aimed at helping students who have fallen behind in reading and writing skills.
Unfortunately, the transition for many schools has been bumpy amidst the chaos of the pandemic and online learning. 74th Street Elementary School coordinator Nicole Douglass tells Capital & Main that understaffing issues have undermined the adoption of more extensive measures. Despite these challenges, the school has successfully set up a robotics team, a book club, a choir, and boys and girls mentoring groups. Following a student survey, their next project is to make more playground equipment and outdoor shade available for students at recess.
The model is taking root outside LA as well. The National Education Association has created the Community Schools Institute to support district and union locals transitioning to the model in 39 states, pushed along by a $10 million investment.