Community school model to expand district-wide in Flint

$2.9 million grant will increase access to health, learning and recreation opportunities for kids and families

Flint Community School children doing mindfulness exercises.
Flint Community School children doing mindfulness exercises at Brownell-Holmes Elementary School, part of the Flint Community School system. Photo: Adam Stoltman

Flint, Michigan — A community school model now in place at five elementary schools will expand to all 11 schools in the Flint Community Schools (FCS) district by the start of the 2016-17 school year. In addition to helping students to meet academic goals, the model also aims to help schools connect students and families with the resources and services they may need in the wake of Flint’s water crisis.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation will award a $2.9 million grant to the Crim Fitness Foundation to support the expansion. Crim serves as the lead agency coordinating community school efforts.

“We’re thrilled to see Flint Community Schools really embracing the ‘community’ part of their name by partnering to provide kids and families with a comprehensive set of programs and supports,” said Mott President Ridgway H. White. “With the expansion of this model, Flint schools will be the best place for kids who may have been exposed to lead to get what they need to thrive.”

The community school program at Flint’s Potter Elementary is engaging AmeriCorps members to help strengthen students’ reading skills.
The community school program at Flint’s Potter Elementary is engaging AmeriCorps members to help strengthen students’ reading skills.

“To educate a student well, you have to look at the whole student,” said Bilal Tawwab, FCS superintendent. “And that includes the student’s family and community. We can’t expect our students to succeed if we’re not also doing all we can to help meet the needs of our families and our community. The community school model helps us do that.”

Flint has long been known for its leadership in the community school movement. In 1935, C.S. Mott and Flint educator Frank J. Manley launched a “lighted schoolhouse” model, which made use of school buildings during non-school hours to provide educational and recreational programs for students, families and neighborhood residents. This helped to shape the development of a school-based model of community education that eventually spread throughout the country and around the world.

As part of Flint’s master planning process in 2013, residents identified a new model of community schools for the 21st century as one of their top desires. In response, the city, FCS, Mott, Crim, the United Way and other community partners teamed up to pilot a new model at the Brownell and Holmes STEM Academies in the 2014-2015 school year. The model was expanded to three more elementary schools — Durant-Tuuri-Mott, Eisenhower and Potter — last year.

“With what we’ve learned over the past two years, we’re now ready to spread the model across the district,” said Crim CEO Gerry Myers. “We’ll spend the summer recruiting and training additional community school directors, as well as seeking supportive partners who are willing to bring their programming into our Flint schools, so we’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the fall.”

The new model provides students with strong, research-based educational and enrichment opportunities, along with nutritional support, physical activity, mindfulness exercises and more. These are the types of interventions students need to mitigate the potential long-term effects of lead exposure. In addition, the schools will become the best place for students, their families and other community members to access a wide range of services.

Each community school will feature three core elements:

  • A community school coordinator will build relationships with school staff, students, their families and other residents of the neighborhood. The coordinator will listen to what those groups need and want and bring in community partners to help meet needs.
  • A Genesee Health Plan health navigator will assess students’ health needs and work with different agencies, organizations and health care providers to address them.
  • YouthQuest, which already provides free, high-quality afterschool programming at all Flint Community Schools, will continue to provide a fun, engaging and experiential approach to promote learning, well-being and leadership development. The program also will provide important ways for young people to get engaged in the community.

Together, these efforts aim to drive progress toward four goals: improving students’ attendance at school; improving third grade reading levels; improving grade promotion and high school graduation rates; and encouraging community engagement.

“What this community school model has done is quite amazing. It has turned the school into more than just a place where you drop off your children and leave,” said Marie Herron, a Flint resident and mother of four, three of whom attend Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School. “Wonderful community partners like Crim, Kettering and AmeriCorps, along with many others, have put so much love and effort into cleaning up and bringing our community closer together. It’s all about providing resources to improve the lives of not only our students, but every single person who comes through the doors.”

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