City Announces Two New Community Schools

Samuel Gompers Elementary and George Washington High School join Mayor Kenney’s ongoing initiative.

Jim Kenney

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Samuel Gompers Elementary in Overbrook and the Northeast’s George Washington High School are the latest additions to Mayor Kenney’s ongoing community school initiative, city officials announced on Wednesday.

“The community schools approach supports academic success by addressing the health and well-being of students, and strengthens community engagement with schools,” Kenney said in a release. “I am pleased to welcome the staff, students, parents and community members from Gompers and Washington to our initiative, and look forward to a resolution to the Beverage Tax litigation so that we can expand this proven strategy into more schools and neighborhoods over the next several years.”

The city has set its sights on transforming at least 25 public schools into community schools by 2020. Each community school receives a full-time coordinator tasked with engaging everybody associated with the school – students/parents, faculty, administrators, service providers and even neighbors – to identify any pressing needs. The coordinator then relays issues back to the city so the proper resources can be provided.

While 24 schools applied for this second cohort of community schools, only two were selected because of the ongoing legal action concerning the soda tax, the city’s release stated. Gompers and Washington join the nine already existing community schools, which were chosen based on administrative willingness, neighborhood poverty and crime rates, health risk factors, support for bilingual students and geographic distribution across the city.

“In just the first year, our community schools are offering significant opportunities for kids and families to further their education and skill sets and to achieve wellness. The tremendous response we’ve gotten from students and communities says everything about the urgent need to expand this initiative throughout our city,” City Council President Darrell Clarke said. “I commend the Mayor for forging ahead on this vision, which City Council shares, to make sure every Philadelphia public student has what they need to be healthy, active and engaged — both in and outside of the classroom.”

The goal of Kenney’s initiative is to address any non-academic barriers that may prevent students from learning, increase community engagement and support the neighborhood surrounding the schools.

“We are proud to welcome a school as diverse as Washington into our initiative,” said Susan Gobreski, the director of the community schools program. “Students there come from over 45 countries, and as a city that values the contributions of immigrants we are eager to connect the school’s students and community members with greater city resources and opportunities. We also look forward to working with the community at Gompers and supporting their vision of serving the whole community through additional services and partnerships. In a city of neighborhoods, we are glad to be able to expand to reach more places as the initiative grows.”

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