A national education movement is headed to Lebanon County.

The United Way of Lebanon County and the Lebanon School District will partner to open the first community schools in Lebanon County. The partnership was announced in a release by Lebanon School District Superintendent Dr. Arthur Abrom and United Way of Lebanon County CEO Kenny Montijo.

The community schools movement reimagines school buildings not just as a place for classrooms, but as central hubs for the community.

“In its ultimate design, the school becomes the center of the community and remains open for services to everyone – all day, every day, evenings and weekends,” according to the release.

Northwest Elementary School and Lebanon Middle School will be the first schools equipped with the additional staff and programming that makes them community schools.

Lebanon School District families can expect the program to bring additional extended day learning opportunities, integrated health and social supports, and more chances for family and community engagement.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera commended the move. “Community schools offer a powerful, evidence-based approach to meeting the needs of the whole student, so they can succeed in the classroom and beyond,” he said.

“I applaud this new partnership between Lebanon School District and the United Way, because when schools, communities and families work together to serve students, ultimately, everyone benefits.”

In Pennsylvania, the community schools concept has been embraced by the City of Philadelphia School District as a major plank of Mayor Jim Kenney’s first term agenda. Community Schools have also been introduced in the Erie, Allentown, and Bethlehem area school districts. In Erie and the Lehigh Valley, the community schools programs are also being realized with help by the United Way.

Palmyra Area School Districts are also exploring the community schools space, as you might have read in our interview with outgoing Superintendent Lisa Brown. “We have that captured audience,” explained Brown as she described an emerging effort to tie together Palmyra area resources like the Caring Cupboard, Pheonix Center, and the Palmyra Public Library.

Here are some of the benefits school administrators say have been proven by research into community schools:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Improved school culture
  • Improved student attendance and reductions in chronic absenteeism
  • Improved family engagement in education
  • Decreased office discipline referrals and suspensions
  • Increased high school graduation rates
  • Proven effective in rural and urban communities
  • Cost effective way to manage available resources

Lebanon School District expects its community schools program to be in place at Northwest and the Middle School in time for the 2019-2020 school year.


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