By Dr. Katie Jarnot
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Just recently, Eagle County Schools completed a series of information meetings inviting the parents of incoming kindergarten students to visit their community school. The concept of community schools extends beyond just being the neighborhood or area that a school is designated to serve. The broader idea is that when a school serves as the hub or heart of the community, then parents can be involved and families can connect with helpful community resources beyond education.
The ideas essential to community schools center around these critical thoughts:
- Communities provide learning opportunities that are educational and life-based.
- Schools at the center of a community support social networks and relationships among parents, students, and community members, creating opportunities for young people and adding value to the area.
- Strong community relationships make it easier to garner resources that can help support a student and positively impact their learning.
Essential services and relationships connect to families through our schools. Health and social services, youth and community programs, friends, and neighbors. Community schools offer a host of opportunities and built-in supports to give students more of the tools they need to learn and grow. And, when communities and schools work as one, students attend more consistently and are actively involved in learning, families are more engaged, and our students’ sense of belonging is secure. Students are healthy — physically, socially, and emotionally — knowing they live and learn in a safe, supportive, and stable community.
Our schools are concerned with academic learning, and our teachers are the most important factor impacting student education. But parent engagement is also vitally important.
While we as educators are focused on curriculum, instruction, and student engagement with the learning process, parent involvement makes a significant difference in academic achievement and school success. Schools and parents work together help to support students at risk who experience poverty, substance abuse in the home, family instability, and parent unemployment. These stresses have a profound effect on a child’s development — academic, social, emotional, and even physical.
Working with teachers, parents, and community resources, a community school can identify ways to help children and families who face challenges and enrich the lives of our children. When a family has a relationship with their community school, an entire range of reinforcing supports can reach the whole child as they develop academically and socially. We are particularly fortunate in Eagle County to have an abundance of amazing resources available for our children.
Beyond clinical and legal supports, we are lucky to have local organizations that provide after-school enrichment, introduce students to winter activities, bring kids together on mountain bikes, introduce kids to field science, and get students involved in visual and performing arts and music. With the support of our community, including The Hope Center and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, we have more counselors in our schools working directly with young people as they grow and adjust to their emerging self-concept and how well they relate to others. Students are going through a lot more than just school when they’re at school — they’re becoming their future selves.
It takes a community to raise its children. We don’t want our children going to just any school — we want families to be a part of the heart of their community. A place they feel welcome, respected, loved and supported. That’s a place where learning can happen. That’s Eagle County Schools.
Dr. Katie Jarnot is the assistant superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.