NEA Foundation Grant Brings Community Schools to Arkansas

September 28, 2020
Thurman Green III, Policy and Community Engagement Associate

Research has shown that, in struggling schools, both educational improvements AND social supports for students and families are needed to drive real change. COVID-19 has even further highlighted inequities within schools and challenged us to think differently about how we meet the needs of students across the state.

Luckily, Arkansas leaders became interested in the community school model even before the pandemic hit. And now, thanks to a grant from the NEA Foundation, this approach will be developed and piloted in nine schools beginning this school year.

What is a community school? While each will look a little different based on the communities they serve, the model starts by identifying the needs in a specific school and then connects students and families to community-based resources and supports that can help remove barriers to learning. This could include partnering with health care and dental providers to provide mobile clinics, installing a washer and dryer on premises for students, creating a food pantry at the school, providing families with technology for remote learning at home, hosting GED classes for parents and more.

The $75,000 grant from NEA Foundation will allow ForwARd Arkansas and its partners at the Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools (ACCS) to work with the Little Rock and Batesville School Districts to assess the need within the nine participating schools, begin to implement community schools partnerships and programming, and then use what we learn to create guidelines that can be replicated elsewhere throughout the state.

In addition, ForwARd and ACCS will work to draft and advocate for legislation to support the development of additional community schools in Arkansas down the road, in addition to identifying other funding mechanisms.

This is exciting work with the potential to have a real impact in schools that need it most. We’ll share further updates in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have questions or want to learn more about the community schools model, please contact Policy and Community Engagement Associate Thurman Green at tgreen@forwardarkansas.org.