Bringing Back the Neighborhoods

In New Orleans, perhaps more than any other place in recent times, issues of community trust and civic need have risen starkly. There, the soft underbelly of personal and communal safety, security, stability, and social justice has been laid bare for the world to see.

Rebuilding the New Orleans school system is about much more than constructing buildings; it’s about restoring faith in public institutions, re-creating community, and building for the future. This means creating schools that meet the needs of students and serve their families and the surrounding community. Schools are being rethought as places where public and community-based organizations act as partners with the schools to ensure that students, families, and community members are safe, supported, and connected.

The goal in New Orleans, and a growing number of other places, is to create schools that are centers of community. A simple premise underlies the work: Strong communities require strong schools, and strong schools require strong communities. We call them “community schools,” though terms such as community learning centers, neighborhood-centered schools, and full-service schools are also used. Regardless of the name, the vision is the same.

Community schools bring together the school and community to focus on academics, enriching opportunities for students, and services designed to remove barriers to learning. Community schools engage families and organize the wealth of assets that all communities have to focus on our youth. Schools are open to everyone -- all day, every day, evenings and weekends included.

The community schools approach has been tested in dozens of communities with great success -- bringing back the true community spirit of education while providing the most effective use of taxpayer funds. Research by the Coalition for Community Schools shows that this approach improves learning and increases parent involvement, particularly for students living in poverty. These schools have the resources to address the physical, social, and emotional needs of their students. 

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