Monday, July 1, 2013

Coalition for Community Schools Blog Series on Expanded Learning Opportunities

The Coalition for Community Schools has launched a nine-week blog series on how community school initiatives are supporting expanded learning opportunities (ELO). Community schools initiatives create partnerships between the school and local resources to meet the academic, social and health needs of students and families. One of the key components of a community school, ELO includes enriching and engaging learning opportunities such as drama, robotics, sports, homework support, service learning and project-based learning. In a community school, school staff or contract providers collaborate with community partners to create ELO for students. For example, Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Cincinnati partners with local organizations such as Project GRAD Cincinnati, Adopt-A-Class, Central Clinic and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati to meet the unique academic, developmental and health needs of its students.

According to the Coalition for Community Schools, there are several different types of ELO. The school day and school year can be expanded for all students, lengthening the traditional 6.5 hours of the day or extending the typical 180-day school year. ELO that may not affect all students at a school includes expanding the school week in which programming for families and students is offered on weekends; intersession and school break ELO in which programming is offered during school breaks; and summer ELO through which academic and non-academic services are offered during the summer break. ELO can also be incorporated into the school environment throughout the conventional school day through learning supports and service learning opportunities.

Throughout the blog series, innovative ELO practices taking place in different community schools will be highlighted. The first blog post focuses on Cincinnati, where community schools are staying open for students, families and the community during school breaks. Although one local school didn’t have the resources to provide programming during breaks, a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club made this programming possible. The second blog post looks at how New Haven community schools, with the help of community partners, went through a needs-assessment process to offer targeted afterschool programming to meet student needs. The third blog post reports on how community schools in Hartford have successfully implemented weekend ELO.

Be sure to check out the Coalition for Community Schools’ blog series for examples from other communities and insight on how your community might go about creating a community school or creating expanded learning opportunities for students in your area.

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