The United Way’s ‘Community Schools Project’ takes its first steps

Local News

The Erie School District’s “Community Schools” directors are gearing up to implement their strategies for the start of the academic year.

Since January, the five directors have been meeting weekly to assess the needs of each of their schools and to strategize on how to meet those needs.

Announced around this time a year ago, The Community Schools Model is a strategy for organizing school and community resources around student success.

Five schools in the Erie School District have a Community School Director.  Their job description is being shaped as they learn.  

Meghan Easter, Community School Director of Pfeiffer-Burleigh, says, “It’s complex… [it’s] still kind of evolving… as we go through this process.”

The United Way of Erie County serves as the backbone of the organization, supporting the effort.  Together, with the community school directors have been working to determine the needs of the schools, identify partners in the community to help fill those needs, and nail down action plans.

Expanded learning opportunities, health, and language support are amongst the most common needs.

Mike Jaruszewicz, Vice President of the Community Impact of United Way, says, “The school teams have been meeting weekly and it’s all part of this model to really make sure we have the right partners in place so we’re able to identify the priorities that we need to address at those schools.”

The Erie School District’s consolidation presented a change in plans, and some additional challenges, but the goal remains the same.

“We’re now transitioning work into two of the middle schools,” says Jaruszewicz, “but you know, while it brought a lot of challenges, it also brought a lot of opportunities.”  One of those opportunities is supporting families through the transition into new schools.

The five schools playing host to the Community Schools Model now include Edison, McKinley, and Pfeiffer-Burleigh elementary schools and Strong Vincent and East middle schools.  

The United Way, the Community School directors and all of the financial partners are ready to implement the strategies at the start of the academic year.

Easter adds, “I think it’s been really neat to see all of the community members that want to participate… to come on board for the better”.

The United Way tells us that they hope to eventually expand the Community Schools Model; not just throughout the rest of the district, but throughout Erie County.

Erie Schools also wants to remind parents that school starts on August 28th and a new Pennsylvania state law requires your child’s immunizations to be up to date before the first day of school or they will not be able to start classes.  They have put together a checklist for you, which you can access by clicking here.

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