May 22, 2018

Community Schools Take Flight in Madison

Tom Linfield


Children enjoy the soccer field at Leopold Elementary, one of two Community Schools in the Madison school district.

Question: What makes a great community? The answer: a great school. And the reverse is true, too–if we make neighborhoods a great place to live, with learning opportunities, green space, community gathering space and opportunities for fellowship and training, then we offer families a chance to thrive.

Madison Community Foundation has long invested in our school system, from Schools of Hope to AVID/TOPS, reading and math curricula to mentoring and tutoring programs. We’ve invested in after-school programs, such as Boys & Girls Club of Dane County’s College Club, Simpson Street Free Press and the First Tee of South Central Wisconsin. At the same time, we've invested in neighborhoods, from affordable housing to community gardens, adult literacy to community centers, food pantries to homeless services. In 2015, MCF invested $300,000 in helping with the planning and implementation of the Madison school district’s Community Schools project, an initiative that brings this array of services together, increasing schools’ abilities to foster partnerships that serve the whole child and the whole family.

More than 5,000 Community Schools have been created in the United States in the past decade, and their outcomes include increases in academic achievement, parental engagement and school success. They decrease behavioral issues and chronic absenteeism, welcoming families into community hubs that are safe, trusted, and resourceful.

The Madison initiative began with two schools—Mendota and Leopold elementary schools, which have now operated for two years and created multiple nonprofit partnerships. We are proud to announce additional support through our largest grant ever—$1.1 million—to expand the Community Schools initiative into more than ten neighborhoods over the next five years. Hawthorne and Lakeview elementary schools will become the district's two newest community schools starting in the 2018-19 school year. This initiative, a partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District, Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, City of Madison, Dane County, and more than 40 different nonprofit agencies, will have a transformative effect on not only teaching and learning, but on family and community engagement, across the city. 

Schools are designed to be places of learning. Classrooms, computer labs, libraries, cafeterias, gymnasiums, green space. Imagine all of these resources being used not only for student learning, but community learning. If it takes a village to raise a child, then the schools must serve the entire village.

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