Op/Ed

Ways of seeing: Towns and schools can work together

This is part four of four win-win solutions to the challenges facing our school districts and small rural towns. The topic is Incentivizing Towns and School Districts to work together. The great news is that H.106, now Act 67 “The Community School Act,” was signed into law by Gov. Scott on June 8! Federal money is flowing, and residents in all three Addison County school districts have an opportunity to deepen their work and thinking, together.

As a reminder, these are the four significant changes that could productively be implemented:

1.  Remove the burden of health care from employers.

2.  Permit and encourage preschool parity.

3.  Assure nurturing care from pregnancy through preschool.

4.  Incentivize towns and school districts to work together.

Rather than discussing what could be as schools and towns work together, I will recap some of the language from Act 67 describing what community schools will be:

The goal: Every child should be able to grow up with the opportunity to achieve their dreams and contribute to the well-being of society. Our public schools must be designed and equipped to fully deliver on that promise. Sec. 2, (a)(1).

The five critical areas: Sec. 3, (2) (A-E)

1.  Integrated student supports.

2.  Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities.

3.  Active family and community engagement.

4.  Collaborative leadership and practice.

5.  Safe, inclusive and equitable learning environments.

And the crucial language that allows every school in our county to become a community school if they wish.

Ability to operate as a community school. Any school district or school, regardless of whether it receives funding under this act, may function as a community school as defined in this section. Sec. 3 (f).

Grants for pilot programs will be available in areas where more than 40% of the children qualify for free and reduced meals. There is at least one such school in each of our three main school districts. Theoretically each district could apply. Realistically, it might make more sense for the entire county to map out how we could streamline administrative functions, transition all our elementary schools into community schools, and provide more individualized support for children and families.

Treleven Inc. is happy to host discussions for groups working on these ideas. Please contact me or Erin Ruble (chair of Treleven’s school transformation committee) if you would like to be involved. You can find the full text of the Legislation at: tinyurl.com/CommunitySchoolsAct.

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