Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced two new grants Wednesday to support community schools that offer programs and partnerships helping vulnerable students and families in the District.
The grants, each worth $175,000 and renewable for up to three years, will provide extra services at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Capitol Hill and Cardozo Education Campus in Columbia Heights.
“By taking into account the whole needs of a child,” Bowser (D) said in a news release Wednesday, “the community-school model breaks down barriers to success, and enables our students to grow and thrive.”
Community schools partner with outside organizations to offer such support as health care, enrichment, mental-health services and counseling for the whole family.
The model has attracted increasing interest from school leaders nationwide. Although some reformers maintain that strong teaching can overcome adversity outside of school, proponents of community schools say that such challenges as poverty and violence contribute significantly to pervasive achievement gaps and must be addressed at school.
The D.C. Council voted in 2012 to fund a pilot program establishing five community schools. Last year, the city funded six such school-community partnerships through grants that are being renewed this year. Wednesday’s announcement brings the total number of city-funded community schools to eight. The model also is used in some other schools, funded by private partners.
The grants are available through a competitive process managed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The two schools receiving the grants this year were selected from among seven applicants.
The Latin American Youth Center will partner with Cardozo Education Campus under one of the new grants, and their program will focus on students who are falling behind or chronically truant and offer mental-health and other support services.
Communities in Schools of the Nation’s Capital will partner with J.O. Wilson. Wednesday, at an event in the school library to announce the grant, Ellen London, executive director of the Communities in Schools group, said the partnership will provide tutoring, mentoring and career exploration for students as well as such basic needs as emergency groceries and uniforms for families. She said a full-time site coordinator will be responsible for fielding partnerships and volunteers.
Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson described the site coordinator, which is a common element in many community schools, as an “air traffic controller” who can focus on managing partnerships to help students and families so busy principals can focus on academics.
“School is the place where all the issues in the city converge,” Henderson said. “In addition to education, we have to take care of health and wellness and the environment. That’s a tall order for schools themselves.”