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DOE Announces City's First 45 'Community Schools'

By Lisha Arino | December 2, 2014 8:26am
 The city's first 45 community schools have partnered with 25 community-based organizations, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said at a press conference at PS 15 - The Roberto Clemente School on Dec. 1, 2014.
The city's first 45 community schools have partnered with 25 community-based organizations, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said at a press conference at PS 15 - The Roberto Clemente School on Dec. 1, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Lisha Arino

LOWER EAST SIDE —The city plans to establish 45 “community schools” focused not just on academic success, but on the physical and mental well-being of its students, according to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The project, announced Monday, will be funded by a $52 million grant.

While the 45 facilities will provide academic support like tutoring, they will also focus on giving students non-academic support through social workers, parent workshops and health programs, Fariña said during a press conference at PS 15 - The Roberto Clemente School, which will become one of the new community schools.

"This is not just about one thing. It's about many things altogether," she said.

The schools will partner with one of 25 community-based organizations — like the Children's Aid Society and Pathways to Leadership — which will provide a full-time site coordinator to manage and organize the schools’ offerings and may provide some services, she said.

The idea, Fariña said, is to help kids learn by addressing all their needs and increasing parent involvement.

The four-year Attendance Improvement and Dropout Intervention grant funding the program, which is administered in partnership with the United Way of New York, will focus on absenteeism and drop-out prevention.

“If children are not at school, they can’t learn. If children are home sick and they’re not healthy, they can’t learn. If children don’t have a reason for getting up in the morning or if their parents don’t understand the importance of going to school, they can’t learn," Fariña said.

Community schools, she said, would each have a unique blend of services, customized for each school depending on its needs.

Middle and high schools would have SAT and Regents prep courses, for example, while other schools would offer health programs or parent workshops on topics like literacy, Fariña said.

Principals from each school will be involved in vetting and deciding which community-based organization to partner with.

For Irene Sanchez, the principal of PS 15, the additional help is a welcome change. The school currently partners with 20 community organizations, which provide various services at no cost to the school, from bringing arts education to the school to providing dental care and physical health exams, she said.

But building those partnerships and managing them is time-consuming and takes her away from the classroom, she said.

“I’m limited at my 20 because of the many things I’m doing. It’s really hard to take on any new partners,” Sanchez said.

“This is going to expand that capacity twice-fold. Now we have the 20, plus you can bring in 20 more because your sole position is to coordinate these services.”

The city is currently in the process of hiring site coordinators for each school, as well as a third-party evaluator for the program.

Public forums will begin early next year, with service plans developed in March, according to the Department of Education. Services are expected to begin afterwards, it said, although some on-campus counseling or mentoring for chronically absent students could begin by January.

The city also plans to open 83 more community schools as part of its Renewal Schools plan to turn around failing schools.