ForwARd Arkansas and the Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools (ACCS) have long partnered to support the Community School model as a success strategy for schools, students and families across the state. This approach focuses on identifying the needs of and connecting students and families in a specific school to community-based resources and supports that can help remove barriers to learning.
ACCS and ForwARd Arkansas kicked off a new phase of their Community Schools initiative last week when they gathered key stakeholders to discuss how the Community Schools model can be used to support students in both rural schools and schools in cities like Little Rock. Participants included state legislators; representatives from Little Rock Mayor’s Office, Little Rock School District, Rural Community Alliance, Arkansas Education Association, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and Arkansas Department of Education; as well as a wide range of service providers and representatives from Independence County.
While the specific approach used in each Community School is determined based on specific local needs, all community schools consist of four key pillars that together create the conditions necessary for students to thrive:
- Integrated student supports, such as mental and physical health services
- Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities
- Active family and community engagement
- Collaborative leadership and a culture of shared responsibility and collective trust
Featured speaker José Muñoz, director of the Coalition for Community Schools, a national organization that serves state community school coalitions, emphasized that these four pillars do not benefit only poor, black and brown children or only students in urban districts. They can support children in need of supports in all schools at all income levels.
In the days ahead, we will organize meetings in Little Rock to consider how the community schools model could be benefit the district and continue to raise awareness of and identify resources to implement community schools in rural districts throughout the state.
Community schools have the potential to level the playing field for all Arkansas students and families by providing additional student and family supports to meet the challenges poverty creates in children’s lives beyond the classroom. Our drive to ensure equitable opportunity for all students has heightened the urgency to see this solution implemented widely across Arkansas.