McFarland Unified Seeks to Make Big Change with Community Schools Grant | New

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When McFarland’s Unified Superintendent Aaron Resendez learned that Governor Gavin Newsom planned to spend hundreds of millions in grants to expand his vision for “community schools,” he made the district’s grant application process a top priority. .

Resendez said he already has plans to gradually expand the school’s resources over the next three to five years to help students in rural communities served by the district.

And MUSD — a district where about 90 percent of the student population receives free or reduced-price lunch — represents an area where Newsom’s goal to “reinvent education in this country” has enormous potential for impact.

Yet when the announcement was released recently that McFarland Unified would receive $7.25 million of the state’s final $635 million in community school grants, Resendez said he could hardly believe it. .

“Actually, we had already planned to do this, but really on a much smaller scale,” Resendez said, referring to plans to improve student and family outreach, “simply because it should have been funded. by some of our specialized financing.

“When the community school funding came out and we realized the magnitude and the nature of it, it really got us to where we wanted to be in four, five or six years – it got us there. arrive in six months. ”

Pending MUSD Board approval of some moves that Resendez is already working on with staff, students are likely to see and experience some of these changes when they return to campus in the fall. .

The goal

The grant application schools used to apply for the money describes the concept of “community schools” as “a strategy for organizing a wide variety of community resources around student success.” The extended hours, services, and relationships inherent in the community school concept rethink education as a coordinated, child-centered effort in which schools, families, and communities work together to support student educational success, while strengthening families and communities at the same time. time.”

What that means, Newsom said during a Zoom media call Monday with members of the State Board of Education, Superintendent Tony Thurmond and members of the California Teachers Association, is “not just (kindergarten) for all, after school (programs) and summer school for all.

“We recognize that we need to break down the silos and we recognize that we need to engage the community and engage parents in a much more dynamic and meaningful way,” Newsom said, “by giving back to our community and giving our parents more choices. and our families, but also, a voice.

Calling it transformative change, it also represents a potentially major expansion of the role of public schools, especially in underserved communities, where resources are most needed, he added.

The idea is for the state to provide the money and for the districts to determine the best ways to spend it based on their own needs, Newsom said.

In a community like McFarland, which has just over 3,400 students, the millions on the table will help in many ways, said Juan Carrasco, who directs special education and student support services for the district.

Impact of rural schools

In working-class McFarland, who recently discussed the need to turn his library – a major source of after-school programs – into a police station due to needs and financial constraints, support services like the ones Newsom is seeking to develop are critical but in limited quantity.

“It transforms schools,” Resendez said, “I think, especially rural schools, in a community like McFarland, the biggest public service agency is the school.”

For many services that families need, parents and their children rely heavily on Kern County, which can often mean a trip to Bakersfield, he said, which can be a big challenge for single-parent households. or those where both parents work full-time or more.

“If we can bring the services to the school and avoid the circumstances where a child has to miss an entire day of school because of an appointment in Bakersfield, because we brought the services to (for example) the Kern Avenue Elementary School,” Resendez explained, “And a parent can come in, a student can be called out of class, they can have their teledate, or they can get tested onsite and then go right back in. class – I think it’s a win all the way.”

Currently, for example, the district has only one school nurse who travels to all four sites, and students with health conditions requiring regular care, such as diabetes, can occupy a significant portion of his time.

However, the funds will allow the district to add a dedicated nurse at each site, as well as a position to help parents coordinate health services for their child.

For Carrasco, whose background is in mental health, one of the most exciting additions for community school grants is how the provision of these services will be improved and more accessible for parents.

“Next year we will have school psychologists, for example, also on each site, so it is another person who can help in a way in the connection and the consultation of the services available throughout the community”, a- he declared.

“A lot of times we would bring families in and, you know, inquire about services that typically or historically haven’t been offered by the school district,” Carrasco added. “And I think this grant for community schools gives us the opportunity to build those partnerships and potentially provide a lot of services that our families and our students really need.”

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