Community schools formally added to Baltimore schools portfolio

The Baltimore city school board approved a policy Tuesday that will formally add "community schools" – which for years have been providing intensive wraparound services to city students – to the district's portfolio.

The policy, which advocates have championed for years, creates a definition of the model and a framework for how they should run in the city. The policy also codifies the formal application process to operate under the designation, and sets up a citywide steering committee that would oversee them.

Like the district's charters and operator-run schools, the community schools will also have to renew their status every three years.

For years, the Family League of Baltimore has facilitated the connection of schools with community organizations to strengthen schoolhouses as anchors of communities.

The model has afforded schools full-time community school coordinators, after-school programs, mental health services, food pantries and a range of other services for students and their families.

Currently there are 53 community schools, and four more in the pipeline; 30 organizations are providing community-school and out-of-school time services.

Last year, the Family League and three city schools received an Award for Excellence from the Coalition for Community Schools, a national organization representing the community schools initiative in nearly 50 cities across the country.

In the community schools nationally recognized — Wolfe Street Academy, Benjamin Franklin High School and the Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary — successes ranged from helping 60 families find housing to transforming school performance from among the worst in the district to among the best.

Larry Simmons, a community schools coordinator, told the school board Tuesday that what community schools bring to the table — GED classes for parents in the same building that their children are learning in, food pantries in schools located in food deserts — has and will continue to strengthen the city.

"Community schools definitely brings the adage, 'It takes a village to raise a child into play,'" he said.

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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