We at the Idaho Coalition for Community Schools (ICCS) are thrilled to announce our receipt of a $46 million dollar Full Service Community Schools grant from the United States Department of Education. This grant is dedicated to expanding the community school strategy across rural Idaho over the next five years.
Community Schools are neighborhood public schools that partner with their local communities to foster environments where every student can thrive. Community Schools are a time-tested strategy for connecting students to the support they need, expanding the choices of resources and opportunities available to families. The Community School Strategy is focused on student-centered teaching and learning that better serves the holistic needs of all students and their families.
Community schools have grown throughout Idaho over the past decade, with 41 schools across 25 school districts currently employing the strategy. Each community school is as unique as the neighborhood that surrounds it, but all are driven by the principle that every student deserves the opportunity to succeed, with family and community serving as critical partners in supporting students.
Utilizing this hyper-local approach, rural areas throughout Idaho unite to address their unique challenges and capitalize on local strengths. Central to this effort is involving families, with a special focus on empowering parents as crucial decision-makers. By fostering collaborations between educators, local organizations, and community members, we jointly identify the most effective educational supports, community engagement strategies, and resources. These efforts are tailored specifically to enhance children’s learning and development, ensuring every child benefits from these customized educational experiences.
ICCS partners work alongside local communities through their community schools to achieve significant goals. These include preparing children for kindergarten, ensuring academic excellence, and equipping students with the skills and knowledge necessary for postsecondary opportunities. Additionally, we focus on regular school attendance, fostering a welcoming school atmosphere, engaging families in the educational process, and ensuring that children’s basic needs are met.
The four core pillars of this approach are:
Collaborative Leadership: Fostering a culture of shared responsibility and decision-making among families, students, school staff, and community members.
Expanded and Enriched Learning: Providing meaningful learning experiences during and outside the school day to foster a love of learning and real-world opportunities.
Family and Community Engagement: Offering impactful opportunities for families and community members to engage in school life and actively participate in their children’s educational success.
Integrated Student Supports: Coordinating services to meet the holistic needs of students and families, focusing on overall health, well-being, and personal development.
By bringing together schools, families, and communities to develop local plans that address their specific needs, and by supporting professional development through training and coaching, we aim to create a lasting statewide system of Community Schools — building strong communities that leads to long-term success for all kids and families. An evaluation of local and statewide efforts will be used to ensure the effectiveness of the project.
ICCS’s work, with United Way of Treasure Valley serving as the lead coordinating agency, is made possible through many partners. Key partners include Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, Idaho State Department of Education, Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, Idaho Children’s Trust Fund, Idaho Nonprofit Center, Idaho Out-of-School Network, and dozens of schools across Idaho’s rural districts.
The program’s implementation in schools will begin in the 2024-25 school year.