By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The U.S. Department of Education announced $63 million in new five-year Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants to support 42 local educational agencies, non-profits, and other public or private organizations and institutions of higher education working to expand existing community schools or to establish new programs in eight new states and territories.
Those locations include Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico.
Additionally, the District of Columbia Public Schools received a $492,000 capacity building and development grant.
The Department of Education said it is working to create new programs or expand existing community schools.
“Meeting the needs of the whole child is essential to help America’s students grow academically and improve their well-being,” officials said in a news release.
DOE officials said that’s why the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to supporting community school models across the country, which provide comprehensive support to the nation’s students, their families, and communities.
They said community schools meet the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve by bringing services into school buildings through local non-profit, private sector, and agency partnerships.
This includes services such as high-quality tutoring, health, mental health and nutrition services, and high-quality early learning programs, among others, for students and the community.
“Community Schools are an essential component of accelerating our students’ learning and supporting their social, emotional, and mental health, and deepening community partnerships,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
“At the height of the pandemic, community schools connected students and families with vital nutrition assistance, mental, physical, and other health services, and expanded learning opportunities,” Cardona added.
“This work continues today because we know that students learn best when there is a comprehensive and holistic approach to meeting their needs.
“I am thrilled that through the historic investment we’re announcing now, the Department is funding the largest cohort of grantees in the history of this grant program.
“This represents a huge step toward the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of doubling the number of Full-Service Community Schools across the country and raising the bar for our support of children.”
This year’s grant competition received the largest number of applications in the program’s history, which officials said showed how important it is to have a support system in place to address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.
The new grantees are committed to implementing the four pillars of community schools, including expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, and integrated student supports that address out-of-school barriers to learning.
It also includes active family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices.
The White House also released a new toolkit that shows how other government agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, can help.
The announcement comes while Cardona visited Turner Elementary School in Washington, D.C., one of two District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) where FSCS funding will ensure a strong pipeline of services.
The administration said it would further demonstrate the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to providing a high-quality education for all students.
DCPS is one of the 42 local educational agencies, non-profits, or other public or private entities and institutions of higher education to receive this funding.
The Department conducted robust outreach to expand interest, and almost half of grantees in this cohort are first-time grantees, DOE officials stated.
“Notably, this cohort includes the first set of grantees in the history of the program that have expressed a commitment to scaling the community school model across the grantee’s state. With this award, the Department has awarded FSCS grants in 20 states and territories.”
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