“Community school” has a whole new meaning for two local schools and others across the Bronx and the rest of the city.
NYC Community Learning Schools Initiative, launched by the United Federation of Teachers, aims to improve student achievement by enabling schools to meet more of the health, safety and social service needs of students, parents and communities.
The organization designated six Community Learning Schools in its first year, and expanded to 16 schools citywide the next. Local Community Learning Schools include P.S. 83 in Morris Park and P.S. 14 in Pelham Bay, both in their first year of the program.
In early May, State Senator Jeff Klein, along with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew announced that $1.5 million was secured in the state budget for citywide investment in the initiative.
The initiative brings partnerships between designated Community Learning Schools and non-profits, local businesses and government agencies to bring needed services to public school buildings, making each school the hub of its community.
“Community Schools have a profound, transformative effect in the lives of our school children and their families…,” said Klein. “These schools truly are schools for the 21st century, recognizing that the health and wellness of our students is as vital to their learning experience as educational programs.”
P.S. 83 in Morris Park was selected to be a community learning school at the beginning of the academic year and is still in the planning stages.
Teacher and UFT chapter leader Reinis Visners said that the school has been reaching out to parents and conducting a needs survey.
So far, he said, what people want seem to be are more opportunities for academic and social support for students.
The school is also searching for a resource coordinator, Visners said, who will manage the programs and partnerships created through the CLS program.
P.S. 18 in Mott Haven is a little further along in implementing the CLS vision.
Teacher Sophie Aponte said that since being selected to the program in the fall of 2012, the school has taken a grassroots approach, starting with a town hall meeting.
“We asked families if they could envision a school, what would it look like and what would it feel like?” said Aponte.
Since then, Aponte said, the school has partnered with the Food Bank for NYC to periodically send home bags of food with students, gotten free vision screenings for the kids, and hosted the Colgate Van for dental check-ups.
The school has also added a long list of student-driven after-school activities, including a journalism club and a basketball team.
Aponte said that since students have become invested in after-school activities attendance has improved improved, while parents aware of the CLS program have become more engaged
“You see a change in culture,” she said.