LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – Lebanon School District launched its community school model Friday. Officials say the needs of students go beyond what tax dollars could do and this approach will help local organizations provide services to families.
“People think, ‘oh, our tax dollars should cover this,’ and they do, but there’s so many other facets to helping a child,” said Brooke Smith, the CEO of the United Way of Lebanon County.
That’s why the United Way, multiple local groups and health care organizations are teaming up with the district to launch the community schools program.
“Sometimes we are asking our own teachers who are pulling from their pockets to make sure the needs of our students are met,” said Dr. Arthur Abrom, the superintendent of the Lebanon School District. “We need to make sure that our students are fed, they get a good night’s sleep. Do they have the right eyeglasses?”
These outside partners will help fill students’ needs beyond their classroom lessons with the help of special coordinators at the Northwest Elementary and Lebanon Middle schools.
“We need to focus on three things: attendance, behavior, and family engagement,” said Guillermo Barraso, the Lebanon Middle School community coordinator.
The United Way tells us Lancaster is another district that has implemented community schools, and it’s already seeing improvements.
Fundraising is key, but Lebanon families are already seeing the payoff.
“WellSpan Philhaven has an after school program for students specifically struggling with social, emotional concerns, behavioral issues,” said Smith. “Because of this partnership, we were actually able to move that program to Northwest Elementary,”
Organizers say investing now is supposed to cut costs later, while increasing reading and graduation rates.
“Not only can we save money, but we can meet our mandate of service,” said Pedro Rivera, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education. “The community school model not only provides opportunities and resources with kids but connects partners to serve the full populous.”
Rivera says community schools are becoming increasingly popular not only in Pennsylvania but across the country.
People interested in donating or volunteering can visit the United Way of Lebanon County’s website.