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Community schools plan begins to take shape

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Mayor Kenney plans to begin implementing a community school model in five to seven schools by September. Each one will add programs specifically tailored to the social, emotional and physical needs of not just students, but also the surrounding neighborhoods.

The schools haven’t yet been selected, but officials confirm that they will be traditional public schools, not charters. The plan is contingent on City Council approving $4 million for it, as the mayor proposed in his budget address earlier this month.

Kenney wants to pay for this, as well as pre-K expansion and upgrades to parks, recreation centers and libraries, with a 3-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages.

In an exclusive interview with NewsWorks, the Kenney administration detailed its still-developing plans to create 25 community schools over the next four years.

Officials estimate that it will cost taxpayers about $40 million over four years. However, that assumes that some additional money will come from philanthropies.

The administration plans to get input on how it will select schools through May.

A rought draft of criteria for selecting which schools get picked favors those in neighborhoods where poverty and crime rates are high and student health needs are significant. Those are places where the administration feels it can serve the most children with the deepest needs.

The city will also work with the School District of Philadelphia to prioritize a geographically diverse set of schools where principals and staff are enthusiastic about the model.

The mayor’s office hopes to choose schools in June and July and hire a school coordinator for each location by the end of August. Those school coordinators — full-time employees of the city, not the School District — will begin site-specific planning as the school year begins in September.

Susan Gobreski, the mayor’s director of community schools, says she hopes to create schools tailored to the unique needs of surrounding communities.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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