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Racine—Beginning in the fall of 2021, Mitchell School will transform into a community school through a partnership between United Way of Racine County and Racine Unified School District. Mitchell will be the third community school in Racine County, following Knapp Elementary and Julian Thomas Elementary.
Community schools are part of United Way’s place-based LIFT (Link and Inspire for Tomorrow) strategy, which creates local partnerships between neighborhoods, nonprofits and businesses to align resources and targeted support. According to the Coalition for Community Schools (2020), “Community schools contain a host of opportunities and supports built-in that give students and parents all the tools they need to learn and grow.” The RUSD community schools are focused on delivering equitable access to high-quality educational experiences, strengthening families and raising the community.
“Transformation requires collective effort, and thanks to the United Way of Racine County and many community partners, we see transformation happening at Racine’s first two community schools—Knapp and Julian Thomas,” said Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien. “I am grateful for United Way’s ongoing partnership and commitment to raising up our schools and our community. As we kick off planning for our first K-8 community school, I look forward to bringing new resources and opportunities to the Mitchell School neighborhood.”
Each school’s resources and programming are determined based on the unique aspirations and needs of its community. The common threads among all community schools are integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, active family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices.
“Incredible change happens when organizations unite the way they do in a community school,” said Ali Haigh, president and CEO of United Way of Racine County. “It’s been incredible to watch the scholastic and personal transformation of students at earlier community schools, and I can’t be more grateful to those who continue to come together to empower students, families and neighborhood members to succeed.”
A community school transformation typically takes five to seven years to show full results. Although Knapp Elementary has only been a community school for four years—since the 2016-17 school year—we are already seeing dramatic growth that demonstrates the efficacy of the LIFT strategy. Students’ math and reading MAP scores have increased, as have staff and parent satisfaction levels. Office referrals and suspensions have steadily declined. And since becoming a community school, Knapp’s closing the gaps score—a measurement on the state report card that assesses schools’ progress in closing the achievement gap for students of color and special education students—has increased from 60.2 pre-LIFT to 84.2 in 2017-18.
To prepare for Mitchell’s transformation next fall, the 2020-21 school year will be a planning year. United Way will facilitate community conversations with Mitchell students, parents, teachers, staff and neighbors. These conversations will draw out the goals, challenges and aspirations of the school’s community, which RUSD and United Way will use to shape the programs and strategies brought to Mitchell School. “I am eager to see how becoming a community school will influence our families, our staff and our community.” said Priscilla Marquez, principal of Mitchell School.
For more information, visit UnitedWayRacine.org/LIFT.