Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Meeting the needs of students and families: Under the community school model, schools take a holistic approach to supporting students’ learning and development by providing educational opportunities and support services that meet the needs of students and their families. By providing more comprehensive services than a traditional public school, community schools aim to improve academic achievement, student attendance, and other outcomes.

  • Providing integrated student supports: Community schools provide comprehensive support services to promote students’ academic learning and social and emotional development. Services are typically offered on-site and may include academic supports, like tutoring; health, dental, and mental health care; social support services, such as housing and nutrition assistance; among others.

  • Offering expanded learning time opportunities: Community schools often collaborate with community-based partners to provide effective learning opportunities during out-of-school time and summer. The focus of these activities varies according to each community’s interests, but may include arts, sports and physical activities, career-oriented learning, and more. These enrichment opportunities may be offered in school facilities or other community spaces.

  • Promoting collaborative leadership and community engagement: Effective community schools create the structures necessary to encourage meaningful and ongoing engagement between the school and the broader community. Typically, this includes opportunities for families to be involved in decisions about their children’s education and for community members to access resources (e.g., adult learning opportunities) and take on leadership roles within the school (e.g., serve on an advisory council).

Multiple studies with rigorous designs show that community schools are a well-supported strategy for increasing academic achievement and improving student attendance.

  • Lay a community-driven foundation: Many schools gradually implement the community schools framework as they work to offer more comprehensive services. When starting out, schools should focus on working collaboratively with community members to conduct an assessment of needs and assets. This assessment can help set priorities going forward and ensure the school takes advantage of local assets.

  • Hire a community schools director: Schools that have successfully transitioned to the community schools model have often benefited from hiring a community schools director to assist the principal in leading the implementation of the community schools framework. This individual can help coordinate the additional services provided by a community school and to manage the high degree of family and community engagement inherent to the model.

  • Implement the model at the district level: Community schools are most effective when they are scaled both vertically (i.e., from early childhood through high school) and horizontally (i.e., across schools in a district). This approach ensures that students and their families have access to the support services across their school careers, and builds greater support for and expertise on community schools at the district level.

  • Use data to inform improvement: Over time, the needs of students and the broader community will change. As such, community schools should regularly collect data to assess whether the school’s approach is meeting the needs of the community. The data used may vary based on the priorities of the community, but key outcomes to monitor may include student attendance, student and parent satisfaction, graduation rates, and performance on standardized tests.