Grand Island Public Schools has embarked on a unique approach to educating children with its community schools pilot project at Lincoln Elementary School.
This approach sees the schools as the center of the community for the families of their students. The goal is to help the families see the schools as the place to go for information and to access community services.
The idea was presented to the district’s school board last summer by Jennifer Worthington, its chief of innovation and engagement. Her hire for this new position was a clear demonstration of the district’s commitment to being innovative.
Heartland United Way has partnered with GIPS for this project. The district has also enlisted other agencies in the community to have events at which they provide services to the school’s families.
An example is a program on severe weather given at Lincoln School by a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Hastings and the Hall County emergency management director last month. NWS also presented a program on severe weather to students at the school that week.
Lincoln Principal Maureen Oman said weather safety was identified as a need in a survey, so the program was scheduled.
Other community schools events have included CPR, fire prevention, first aid and parenting classes, as well as an art event. Upcoming events include a dental clinic, child growth and development classes, a car seat event and adult nutrition classes.
These have the potential of meeting numerous health care and safety needs of families with young children.
It will take time to build the connection with the parents so that more of them participate in these programs, but the school district sees this as a way to help students succeed by building healthy families. When young children see their parents becoming more active at their school, that encourages them to value their education and enjoy going to school.
Scheduling is also an issue as some parents can attend programs at night, while others need daytime sessions.
The community schools program has enormous potential as GIPS works to schedule the programs that meet the parents’ needs.
The district’s plan is to ultimately expand it to other schools, which would benefit more families.
This first year of the community schools program is very encouraging, underlining the importance of the school district to the community and the district’s recognition of its responsibility to the patrons who support it with their tax dollars and their votes in bond issues.