A Leadership Council has been formed to recommend the steps necessary to expand the Community School Initiative in Evanston to more schools, said District 65 School Board member Candance Chow, who is representing District 65 with four others from District 65 on the Leadership Council. Representatives of Youth Organizations Umbrella, McGaw YMCA, Foundation 65, United Way North-Northwest and Family Focus are also on the council.
A community school has been piloted at Chute Middle School since the 2013-14 school year. The Leadership Council commissioned a study of best practices at other community schools throughout the nation, assessed progress at the Chute pilot, and interviewed stakeholders to determine the interest in and feasibility of expanding the model.
There is no set model for a community school. They offer a wide range of supports and services, such as after-school learning programs; enrichment activities; sports activities; counseling services; physical, dental and mental health services; adult education programs; and housing and job assistance. Generally the services are provided through partnerships with community organizations.
The premise is that providing a network of services at a school and keeping the school building open for extended times can improve student health, reduce impediments to student learning, increase student engagement, open doors to parental involvement, provide a more supportive environment for learning and create conditions for high student achievement.
Ms. Chow said the plan now is to prepare a vision statement and guiding principles for community schools in Evanston and to develop recommendations on how to scale up the community school model , identify the schools involved and determine the needed resources. The work is “accelerating at a pace that’s wonderful and ambitious,” said Ms. Chow. She asked School Board members for any thoughts.
Omar Brown suggested that the Leadership Council look at expanding the model to the schools that feed into Chute, namely Dawes, Oakton and Walker. Ms. Chow said that would be a discussion point.
Board President Tracy Quattrocki said, “I would think we’d want to set very concrete goals for how we define success and how those goals are met.”
Ms. Chow said at this point the goals are very broad-based and that United Way’s experience with other community schools may be helpful in setting goals. She added that the council may be able to develop overarching goals, but the parents involved at each school involved may need to set goals specific to their schools.
Claudia Garrison asked that the Board be given an update on the progress in April.