Walk into Schenectady’s Hamilton Elementary School, and you’re going to notice something a bit different.
For one thing, there’s a washer and dryer available for the entire school community.
“This brings some of the families into the building. This is welcoming for the families to come in,” says Kate Pieronek, assistant principal of Hamilton Elementary School.
It’s just one of the ways the school district hopes to draw parents into its new community room.
Schenectady is one of more than 100 districts throughout the state to move to a community school model. It’s a multi-layered approach, with the hope of building relationships with local partners to strengthen in classroom learning, while also helping families get the resources they need.
“I am a strong believer that this will change the trajectory of our students and our families and our community as a whole because it’s a wrap around support structure,” says Dr. Carlos M Cotto Jr., assistant superintendent of Innovation Equity and Engagement.
According to the Coalition for Community Schools, nationwide, every dollar invested in a community school coordinator results in $7 in benefits. While state and federal funding is available, this legislative session, the New York State Unified Teachers association is asking for $100 million in the state budget specifically to expand community schools.
Schenectady moved to the model this school year and says there’s already been positive results.
"I’ve seen a difference with attendance. Our attendance has improved from last year to this year. I’ve seen a lot of parents calling us up and really working with us,” says Pieronek.
Students have also jumped on board. At the elementary school, they’re not afraid to ask for a coat or a long-sleeve shirt when they need one. All of the items can be found in the community room, free of charge.
“I get a little emotional thinking about it because of the impact that we’re making. I know that it’s not just the students that we’re impacting. It’s the family members behind that,” says Ryan Williams, a community school coordinator.
Schenectady has started with five community schools, with the goal to expand the model to each of its buildings in the coming years.