COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new bill would help schools in Ohio look beyond the classroom to improve student success.
The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act would help districts bring in wraparound services that support the overall well-being of students and their families, including medical care, counseling, mentoring and transportation.
Alexander Local Schools started a Community Learning Center program a decade ago with the help of local agencies and organizations.
Lindy Douglas, school superintendent, explained the community was dealing with rising poverty at the time, as well as a drug epidemic, and kids were not coming to school ready to learn.
"Students now have the help they need so that they can focus on academics," Douglas touted. "We were able to reach out to the families and help the families get back on their feet. Sometimes it's what the children are dealing with on a daily basis at home that hinders their performance."
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the act, Senate Bill 385, and a companion bill was introduced in the House, House Resolution 1241.
It would offer funding and resources to help districts plan, expand and create infrastructure for community schools.
Douglas noted in rural districts such as Alexander Local, the community learning model opens up opportunities for students and their families, who otherwise may lack time and resources.
"When you bring the services to the child in the school building, the parents no longer have to miss work," Douglas observed. "The child is pulled out of the classroom, gets the medical or mental-health counseling that they need. And they're slid right back into the classroom. So they miss very little school time."
And Douglas added the district has seen success, most notably their alternative program for troubled youths that incorporates mental-health counselors into the classroom learning environment.
"So servicing their mental-health needs along with their educational needs," Douglas reported. "That classroom started with 15 to 20 kids in that unit. Now we're down to probably five. That speaks numbers and volumes."
She also pointed out by helping students who would have normally dropped out, the district has also improved graduation rates.