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Understanding Community Schools

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Myers-Wilkins Elementary School, Lincoln Park Middle School, and Denfeld High School are all considered Full-Service Community Schools. The Full-Service Community School Model is based on four “pillars”, or, four key components. These components include Integrated Student Supports, Expanded and Enriched Learning time and Opportunity, Active Family and Community Engagement, and Collaborative Leadership and Practice. The graphic below illustrates the Four Pillars.

Four pillars labeled Integrated Student Support, Collaborative Leadership and Practice, Expanded and Enriched Learning time and Opportunity, Active Family and Community Engagement

Integrated Student Supports

The first of the four pillars is Integrated Student Supports. Instead of having to go to the dentist, the dentist will come to the students at school. Students cannot focus on academics until their non-academic needs are met. Community School staff work with the students and their families to identify the barriers to those needs, then bring in community partners to address and break through the barriers. Having services offered within the schools improves attendance, academic achievement, behavior, and overall well-being. The integrated student supports in the Duluth Community Schools include social, nutritional, emotional, and behavioral services.

Expanded and Enriched Learning Time and Opportunity

The second pillar is Expanded and Enriched Learning Time and Opportunity. Young people who come from low-income communities have limited access to activities outside of school, which widens the achievement gap. Community Schools provide programming where young people are able to build social, emotional, physical, and academic skills through hands-on learning. This programming improves student attendance and behavior, raises graduation rates, and reduces juvenile crime involvement. The Duluth Community Schools offer free after-school and summer programs that provide academic support, enrichment activities, and real-world learning opportunities. Young people are able to try athletics and the arts, explore Duluth parks and landmarks, learn about higher education and careers, and expand their views of the world.

Active Family and Community Engagement

The third pillar is Active Family and Community Engagement. Parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, and other community friends are all important pieces to the school puzzle. Full-Service Community Schools function as neighborhood hubs that bring all of those people together to increase student support. They work as a team to create goals and strategies, monitor student progress, and identify and navigate barriers to success. Informed and included families are better equipped to help their kids outside of school, and it is proven that students have higher attendance rates and increased academic achievement when their guardians are involved in their education. The Duluth Community Schools build relationships and increase engagement by hosting free family nights and community events, facilitating Parent Advisory boards, and communicating regularly with students, families, and community members.

Collaborative Leadership and Practices

The fourth and final pillar is Collaborative Leadership and Practices. Everyone is on the same team and has the same goals: student success. Parents, teachers, principals, and community partners are all committed to their students’ academic (and non-academic) achievement. Together, they create and maintain an inclusive, trusting environment based on local cultures and needs, then collaborate during planning and implementation of services. When people from different backgrounds come together, their individual expertise morph together into a collaborative masterpiece. Without collaborative leadership, the other three pillars would fall apart. In the Duluth Community Schools, site-leadership teams bring various stakeholders together to ensure our schools are hubs where everyone belongs and works together so our young people continue to succeed.

As Full-Service Community Schools, Myers Wilkins, Lincoln Park, and Denfeld are all continuing to use and build on the four pillars. With Integrated Student Supports, Expanded and Enriched Learning time and Opportunity, Active Family and Community Engagement, and Collaborative Leadership and Practice, our Community Schools and everyone involved will continue to thrive.

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