As Congress prepares for the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), we're seeing bills propose a variety of measures to reform the education system. The Full Service Community Schools Act of 2009 [pdf] and the Keeping Parents and Communities Engaged Act [pdf] both incorporate the concept of community schools, a concept that is closely linked with health, wellness and sustainability.
A community school is a public school that combines education with a range of other in-house health and social services. So kids come to school to learn, of course, but parents may also drop by the school for a dental check-up. This engagements means that community schools are often the center of neighborhood life; they are open evenings, weekends, and summers for events, activities, and appointments.
In addition to providing ready access to important medical services right in the neighborhood, community schools take on the vital role of engaging and connecting with parents. In particular, schools can give parents the opportunity to learn about health and wellness in a comfortable, familiar environment that puts kids' well-being front and center. Schools may host evening sports and nutrition education activities for families, for example, creating consistency between the home and school environment.
Community schools also promote health and sustainability by the simple fact that they are located in a community. When a school is located in a neighborhood, kids (and families) can often walk or bike there. (And many neighborhood schools also happen to be historic buildings -- check out our recent guest post to learn more about the many benefits historic school buildings can offer a community.)
And of course, parent engagement is good for kids' education. Research continues to demonstrate the positive connection between parent involvement, community support and kids' success at school.