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Alain Locke Elementary named as 12th community school

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

The city’s community schools initiative continued to expand this week as Alain Locke Elementary in West Philadelphia was named to a list of schools that aim to serve as hubs for families and locals.

Under the initiative – which the Mayor’s Office of Education began last year – Locke will have a community schools coordinator who will work with the school, students, families, local service providers, and city agencies to identify the needs of the community and bring resources to the school to address those needs. In essence, the school is intended to become a community center offering services such as job training, health services, and afterschool programs.

“We want parents and neighbors to see Locke as a hub that can address their social, emotional, academic, and health-care needs,” said Locke principal Katherine Carter. “A community schools approach will expand what we have to offer to the community and complement our efforts to improve students’ reading and math levels and prepare them for success.”

In 2014, the school’s neighborhood was designated a Promise Zone – a high-poverty area designated to receive extra federal resources to boost community development. Drexel University will provide support using the $30 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education that it received last year.

Through its Lindy Scholar program, in which Drexel students tutor and mentor 6th- to 8th-grade students, the university has partnered with the school for several years.

Lucy Kerman, Drexel’s senior vice provost for university and community partnerships, said the community schools approach “perfectly complements the Promise Neighborhood goal of leveraging education to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”

Locke is one of seven Promise Zone schools. The others are Belmont Charter, Morton McMichael Elementary, Martha Washington Elementary, Samuel Powel Elementary, SLA Middle School and West Philadelphia High School.

“Our vision for this partnership is to build a stronger connection between the school and increased health and economic resources available in the Promise Neighborhood,” Kerman said.

The community schools initiative began in 2016 with nine schools. The schools include five elementary schools: Cramp, Edmonds, Gideon, Logan, and Southwark; three high schools: Kensington Health Sciences, Dobbins, and South Philadelphia; and Tilden Middle School.

Two more schools were added in July 2017 – Gompers Elementary and Washington High. The goal is to have 25 schools included in the initiative.

“We are glad that the Promise Neighborhood will feature a community school beginning this year,” said Susan Gobreski, director of community schools for the Mayor’s Office of Education.

“The city is a supportive partner on the Promise Neighborhood grant, and we are excited to work with Drexel to bring more solutions and opportunities to Locke and the surrounding neighborhood using the community schools model,” she said.