City Launches Community Schools Initiative

City Launches Community Schools Initiative

City Launches Community Schools Initiative
June 18, 2014

Adding another layer of reform to the education system, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Tuesday that the city secured funding to launch 40 community schools during the next school year. 

The city received a 4-year grant utilizing funding from the state Department of Education and will be managed in partnership with the United Way of New York City. The 40 community schools slated to open this coming school year will be selected through a Request for Proposal process. The grant provides each school with an average of $300,000.

Community schools have been hailed as innovative because of the wide range of services they provide beyond the classroom, such as physical and mental health services, as well as for their active engagement with parents. The New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx, where the mayor announced the initiative, combines two new pre-K through twelfth grade public schools, special education classrooms, a health clinic, an aquatics center, dance studio, and rooftop garden.

"We believe in the community school model," de Blasio said. "We believe in the notion that bringing parents into the schools, providing healthcare services and other supports for the whole family, change, fundamentally, our ability to educate our children."

Community schools have had mixed success in terms of academic performace, however. As a mayoral candidate last year, de Blasio traveled to Cincinatti, a city that has adopted and instituted community learning in all of its schools. While de Blasio was entranced reportedly entranced with the potential of the model on his trip, test scores for some of Cincinatti's schools remain subpar.

De Blasio was evidently unfazed by the poor testing of community schools, saying "I do not pray at the altar of high-stakes testing," and choosing instead to focus on the other lifestyle benefits that the schools provide. Chancellor Fariña echoed this sentiment, but did not deny that the programs were somewhat unproven academically.

"We expect that there will be progress but it doesn’t happen over night, but these are all the steps to get there," Fariña said.

Nick Powell