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Community School Model Seen as Valuable to Rural Areas

Community schools can help create more equitable conditions for learning and teaching in rural areas, according to a national alliance that supports community-school partnerships.

Community schools are sites that integrate academics, health and social services, and youth and community development with the goal of improving student learning, strengthening families, and creating better communities. Such schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone every day, at night and on weekends, according to the Coalition for Community Schools.

Although these kinds of partnership are perhaps more common in urban and suburban areas, a handful of rural schools are showing how these can be effective in their communities, according to a recent article from the coalition.

The coalition highlighted three sites of success: Bangor, Penn., Kings Mountain, N.C., and Bozeman, Mont. There's no exact count of how many rural schools are considered community schools, but the article says "several" are using community school strategies.

The article says the national community school movement needs to include rural areas for a number of reasons. For one, a sizable number—10 million—of students are enrolled in rural districts, and a high percentage of rural students live in poverty (41 percent and that figure is growing). Because rural students receive nearly 18 percent less in funding for instructional support than the average student, community schools are important to creating equity, according to the article.

One of the featured school districts, Bangor Area School District, is in northeastern Pennsylvania and covers 87 square miles and four townships. Although unemployment and students' poverty are rising, attendance has improved at its two community schools, according to the article. The schools' climates also are described as improving.

The local United Way has led the community school initiative, which includes after-school activities for students. Nearby Northampton Community College allows students to use its campus, and college students use Bangor schools as service learning sites.

Family centers are in each community school, and residents have used the schools during recent hurricanes and snowstorms for showers and supplies.

The article goes on to detail the community-school partnerships in North Carolina and Montana. It also provides resources for those interested in learning more.

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