It’s time for a revival of community schools

ByTshaka Ishmael

When COVID-19 rocked all normalcy in education, important necessities took priority. Students needed computers, teachers needed masks and, most urgently, schools needed quick innovation and collaboration with families to support rigorous learning.

As a result, schools across the country became community hubs, providing health care services, food distribution and mental health support at a critical moment in our history.

As the dust clears on a challenging two years in education, it is clear community school models played an integral role in supporting learning, families and neighborhoods all at once, and this model continues to offer significant benefits for students, especially in African American communities.

No two community schools are alike because they are based on the needs of the students, families and community members they serve. Community schools provide services and support that fit each neighborhood’s unique needs. They are led by the people who know their children best – families, guardians, educators, community organizations, local governments and the students themselves – all working together.

Community schools are built with an understanding that students carry more than just books, pencils and tablets throughout the school day. Socioeconomic and social-emotional challenges can affect students’ academic success, especially for students of color. Research demonstrates that students who attend community schools have increased rates of attendance and on-time grade progression, among other gains.

Now is the time to rebuild trust in our community schools and invest in the academic and mental health needs of our Black students to ensure they can grow and thrive.

As a leader at KIPP Miami, I collaborate closely with local families and community leaders in Gladeview, Liberty City, Opa-locka, Brownsville and surrounding neighborhoods to provide students with the services they need most. Working in isolation, schools cannot address the effects of economic struggle that our local families experience. When students lack access to safe transportation, healthy food, mental health and other tailored services, community schools rise to the occasion.

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