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Community Schools Initiative hopes to expand
Pond Gap pilot program demonstrates that Community Involvement works

VIDEO: Panelists representing the University of Tennessee, Knox County Schools, and the United Way share the success stories of Pond Gap Elementary Schools Community School project.
The Knox County Schools, in partnership with the University of Tennessee Knoxville and United Way of Greater Knoxville, recently hosted a panel discussion for School Board members and County Commissioners to learn more about the Community Schools initiative. 

The Community Schools initiative works to enhance student academic success and to eliminate achievement gaps by meeting students’ basic needs through aligned and coherent support services.

Pond Gap has been the pilot program for the Community Schools Initiative in Knox County. 

An expansion of the community schools initiative is included in the Knox County Schools fiscal year 2013 budget. The Knox County Commission votes on the budget, Monday,  June 4.




Article in Phi Delta Kappan publication:




University-Assisted Community School Program at Pond Gap Elementary

A University-Assisted Community School (UACS) is a school that meets the most basic needs of children and their families.  Readiness to learn: collaboration with preschoolers and kindergartners.  Support of adults: alignment of services (housing, legal aid, insurance). Extended learning opportunities: afterschool activities integrated with the classroom curriculum, reinforcing and enriching what children learn each day.  Parent involvement: programs requested and utilized by the parents (GED, tax preparation, job search and interview skills, etc.).  Lifelong learning: opportunities offered to parents and families to extend their own education (computer skills, ESL classes, GED classes, etc.).  The UACS focus is on the school as the core institution, the “hub”, for community engagement and democratic development.  Their doors are open to all before school and after school, evenings, weekends, and summers. 

During the first year of the UACS pilot program, many highlights stand-out.

Ø    Safe environment for children in the Pond Gap community after school

Ø    Students achieving academic success in the classroom – most improved students academically were participants in the Full Service Program;

Reading scores higher; Math scores higher

 

Ø    Attendance rates increased; tardies decreased for students in the program

 

Ø    Discipline referrals of program participants went down

 

Ø    Dinner provided to children in the program and their families – free of charge

Ø    Breakfast and lunch provided to students and siblings during the summer program – free of charge

Ø    Enrichment activities to support the children, parents, and school: academics, music, art, learning centers, fitness and recreation

 

Ø    Workshops and classes for parents: GED classes, ESL classes, Community Mediation workshops to provide legal support and guidance, job

            readiness classes

 

Ø    Educational programs and support offered by the University of Tennessee and Social Service/community agencies:

 

UT College of Nursing

UT Art Education Dept.

UT Philosophy Dept.

UT Recreation

UT Counseling Dept.

UT Nutrition Dept.

UT Sociology Dept.

UT School of Veterinary Medicine: HABIT Ruff Reading Program

UT Dept. of Climatology

REACH Counseling

Vols Teach

Project Citizen

Ijams Nature Center

Red Cross

Kids on the Block

Safe Haven        

Knoxville Opera

Knox County Sheriff’s Dept.

Friends of Literacy

West Knoxville Rotary Club

Arnstein Community Center

Knoxville Jewish Alliance

Boys & Girls Club

Big Brothers/Big Sisters (mentorship program)

Curlee Communications, Inc.

Better Brain Technology

 

Ø    VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program available starting January 2012

 

Ø    Washer and Dryer available to parents – free of charge

 

Ø    Field trip opportunities which the students otherwise would most likely not experience – Cirque du Soleil, UT baseball, Knoxville Museum of

                        Art, Pump-It-Up, PetSafe/Radio Systems Corp., Ijams Nature Center, University of Tennessee

 

Ø    Volunteer participation: a large number of people have stepped forward to offer their time and support of the kids. Volunteers have come from:

 

The University of TN

Maryville College

Pellissippi Community College

Bearden HS

Episcopal MS

Farragut HS

Fulton HS

Hardin Valley Academy

Webb School

West HS

Radio Systems Corp.

West Knoxville Rotary Club

Sequoyah Presbyterian Church

Knoxville Jewish Alliance

 

Ø    Noticeable, positive improvement in children’s behaviors and appreciation of the Community School Program

 

Ø    Implementation of a summer program for incoming kindergarten students

 

Ø    Community Service project: Rummage Sale – all proceeds donated to organization chosen by students

 

 

Topics to be focused on for future program improvement include:

 

Ø    Increased community collaboration – more workshops and presentations offered to students and parents/adults in the community

Ø    Case management services for families to provide assistance (housing, insurance, food, clothing, etc)

Ø    Increased and continued volunteer support

Ø    Community involvement and support from local businesses

Ø    Increased parent involvement and participation in parent programming

Ø    Establishment of a community resource center

Ø    Increased training opportunities for staff

Ø    Expansion of the program to more students, families in the Pond Gap Community along with the expansion to a middle school



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