September 20, 2021

Scott Girard: Wisconsin leaders discuss, celebrate community schools model at Hawthorne Elementary

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Scott Girard at the Capital Times has a report on the use of the community schools model in Madison, Wisconsin.

The district began its community schools program in 2016-17 at Leopold and Mendota elementary schools and expanded to Lake View and Hawthorne in 2018-19. The schools, which are staffed with a community schools resource coordinator position, ask parents, students and neighborhood residents to help identify issues and solve them.

MMSD’s website defines the schools as “a welcoming and inclusive place that builds on the assets of the community to help serve the identified needs of the students, families and community through well integrated and coordinated, strategic partnerships.”

A $300,000 grant from the Madison Community Foundation allowed the district to explore the community schools idea initially, and MCF later awarded a $1.1 million challenge grant to the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, with FMPS required to raise a matching amount of money by the Dec. 31, 2023, end of the grant period. The grant provides $220,000 each year toward the community schools program.

District officials discussed an expansion to the program in early 2020 for the 2021-22 school year, but that was before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted education in a variety of ways. Jones said he’d like to see the program expand throughout the district in the future.

“A true community school reaches what our education system has in terms of its highest ideals, which is everyone feeling safe and learning and growing as human beings so that we can get out of some of these messes that both our current and previous generations have kind of dug us,” Jones said.

He said the schools don’t “just look at the kid as a test score,” or evaluate teachers or parents on their students’ or child’s test scores.

“(It) actually looks at everyone involved in this as a human being, and figuring out what do you need,” he said. “Do you need health care? We’re going to work on the health care. You need dental care? We’ll work on the dental care. You need mental health supports? We’re going to work on the mental health support.”

Read the full story here.

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