While there are hundreds of schools, colleges, universities, and other establishments that are designed for learning – there are still many places that don’t have access to affordable, high-quality education. Community schools can bridge that gap for students who don’t have access to extra tuition and even courses that can help them head to work earlier rather than more education.
Community education centers and schools have proven to offer a better sense of community – and increase the opportunities for the students who attend. Another bonus is that they don’t always have to be a specific age group.
Depending on the type of school or learning center that you want to create, you’ll be following a similar set of steps to the ones mentioned below.
The vision behind the school can make a significant difference to the people who attend. Many demographics do not have access to the need to go further in life. Working with a community to bring better education is a start – but what does it look like in the future? What is it that you want to achieve for your students?
You need to be sure that your vision and the needs of the community align. For this, you should either be part of the community or have a deep understanding of the community. This is only achievable by spending long periods of time talking with the residents, shopping there, and talking with the business owners and the children.
Pulling crime reports, looking at crime rates, and the demographics. Look for where you can make a positive impact on those students and their families. Learning should benefit all of those in the community.
Funding isn’t always easy to come by, and you will likely need a combination of grants, charity support, and your own cash. Crowdfunding is also a possibility based on your needs. Here are a couple of things that you’ll need to cover:
- The rental or purchase of a building
- The teaching team
- Transport (for rural community schools or neighborhoods where children getting to schools is difficult)
- Materials like books, pens, chalkboards, desks, school ID cards, background checks, and more.
- Registrations, licenses, legal fees for obtaining those, pollution permits, fire department permits
- Remodeling any buildings to make sure they are school-appropriate
- Signage, letterheads, and other stationery
The teaching team will be made up of qualified teachers and volunteers; you might find some parents who want to help, too. Everyone involved will need to have the right training and background checks to ensure the safety of the children. Getting the community involved is an essential part of starting the community school – and the only way that it will survive long-term.
It is a good idea to look at any language needs, accessibility, and other things that might be impacting the education of the children in the local area.
Resistance can be a very normal part of a community school in the beginning, which is why you need to work with the community ahead of the school opening and continuously after. Sometimes, the barrier to education is parents who were also denied education.
Having offerings for the parents and guardians in terms of education, support, and access to the things they need can be impactful for the entire community in a much bigger way.
District & Community
You’ll need to talk about the strategic plan for the community school, how that will impact the district – and how the district can support the plans for the community school. Not all districts will be willing to put the community school as a priority.
With a community school, you are trying to remove barriers and make a difference, but you’ll need to show how what you’re doing is going to be different from what has happened before and the long-term goals that your community school can achieve.
Starting a community school is not an easy undertaking – but once you have started it, it is important to remain committed through all of the issues that you may face. Resistance from the community, red tape, lack of funding, and lack of support. Changing systems and introducing new things is a difficult road – your commitment needs to be unwavering.
The community school can be a hub for more than just education. It is possible to use the building to support the community on the weekends, including clinics, financial talks, health services, vision screenings, sexual health clinics, mother and baby classes, cooking classes, and more. Unemployment can also be a barrier to children’s education in many low-income communities, so free or heavily subsidized childcare and job-seeking support are also beneficial.
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