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Austin ISD Receives $2.5M to Create Community Schools

Four public schools in North Austin have received a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the federal government to implement a full community school model on their campuses. Austin ISD is expected to announce the grant later this morning. 

The four schools are Lanier High School, Burnet Middle School, Cook Elementary and Wooldridge Elementary. 

At Lanier High School nearly all the students are considered difficult to educate: Most are poor and at-risk of dropping out, nearly a third of students are English Language Learners, and students move a lot.  Last year, 25 percent of students there attended multiple high schools in one year. 

"In certain communities kids go to school simply to learn and in certain communities kids will go to school to be cared for as much as they are there to learn," says Ryan Hopkins, interim principal at Lanier. "Until they're cared for the learning is not accessible."

Hopkins hopes this grant will make that learning more accessible. The goal is to use the money to implement a community schools model.

So, what is that? Essentially, community schools are connected with other organizations to help parents and families outside the classroom.

“We’re not just a school," says Hopkins. "We can help you out with eye care, we can get health care provided for you, we can make sure your light gets turned back on.”

Allen Weeks is executive director of Austin Voices for Education and Youth, the group that helped apply for the grant.  

Weeks says there are already strong community schools in many Austin neighborhoods, "but there have been other schools especially in some of our low-income communities that have become isolated because of people moving in, people moving out and a variety of reasons. So, the community school effort is basically to reengage school with community."

Officials at Lanier say the first step is to open a family resource center on campus, which will offer social services as well as adult education classes.

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