The Little Rock School District and the city announced Wednesday that four elementary schools will become part of a new “community schools” model. Little Rock Chief Education Officer Jay Barth made the announcement in a short video posted online. He also spoke with KUAR News about what’s planned.
DR. JAY BARTH: On one level, community schools are traditional public schools. They are schools where there is of course high-quality curriculum, but there’s a recognition that the students who are in those schools and the neighborhoods around those schools need additional support for the kids to be able to be the best they can be as students. And so there are really four pillars to community schools. One is being sure that there are the wraparound services available to those students that really meet their needs. Second, a real clear recognition that there needs to be high-quality out of school experiences in the after-school and summer hours. Third, real recognition that that school can really become a community hub where parents and other community members can get the services they need to be their best and create a more vibrant neighborhood. So, that might be digital, literacy, or that might be English language learning courses. And then fourth, really thinking about the voice of a variety of folks on an on-going way really saying these are the needs of the school, and so we do see students, parents, community members, along with the traditional school leaders really working together, especially when it comes to these wraparound services that really meet the needs of that community and those students on an ongoing basis.
MICHAEL HIBBLEN: And what are the first four schools and how are they chosen?
BARTH: Yeah, so the first four schools are Chicot Elementary, Watson Elementary, Stephens Elementary, and Washington Elementary. Two of those schools, the first two they’re in the southwest portion of the city. The other two schools are in the heart of the city and the southern part of the city. They were chosen for a variety of reasons. First off, they have really collaborative leaders who are in those leadership roles as principals and they are folks who really want to work with the community, bring the community in. Second, they are neighborhoods that have special challenges and therefore are places where these programs can [sic] we think really make a significant difference in creating more equity in our city. Third, they have physical spaces that are a minimal to the neighborhood really coming into that school on a regular basis, and I think all of those things really combined together to make them particularly attractive. They also [sic] we were conscious of the feeder patterns of where elementaries come together to go up to middle schools and then middle schools into high schools so that we really are both kind of thinking about a little long haul building out the system of community schools, but then building up through the feeder patterns to the middle school and then the high school.
HIBBLEN: And finally, does this play a role in the Little Rock School District moving forward? It’s still under state supervision, is this part of that process?
BARTH: Certainly, it is vitally important that the city of Little Rock— the community of Little Rock really show tangible evidence that it is prepared to take control of the public schools in Little Rock. This is, I think a tangible sign of that. You may remember that when the State Board of Education was having conversations about the reconstitution of the Little Rock District that Mayor Scott stepped in and really said that the City of Little Rock was in a spot and committed to investing in our schools through the community school model. So, there certainly is a linkage there I believe, but more importantly, I would say that this community is ready for local control, complete local control and this is just one more piece of evidence for that.