This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
For months now, coordinators at Philadelphia’s new batch of community schools have been planting the proverbial seeds. They’ve held neighborhood forums, reached out to local nonprofits, and surveyed community members. They’ve spent hours talking and networking and contemplating what kinds of solutions would make the most sense in their specific schools.
Now the seeds of that work are beginning to bear fruit — sometimes in the form of literal seeds.
At Murrell Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia, the freshly minted community school calls for the creation of a community garden and farmers market to help combat food insecurity.
"That way the community actually is providing for itself," said Charles Reyes, Dobbins’ community schools coordinator.
On Thursday, the city released official plans for each of the nine community schools participating in Philadelphia’s latest urban education experiment. Through the community schools initiative, Philadelphia wants to create schools that are hubs for outside supports. That way, the theory goes, you can lift the surrounding community while solving the sort of non-academic challenges — such as hunger — that can trip up low-income students.
Mayor Jim Kenney is betting big on the model, despite questions over whether it focuses enough on academics to truly lift student outcomes. Kenney wants to create 25 community schools at a cost of $40 million, which he plans to fund through the headline-grabbing tax on sweetened beverages.