Innovating Education in Community Schools

United Way of Olmsted County helps students reach their full potential in and out of school by working with partners like Rochester Full-Service Community Schools. 


What are Community Schools? 

Community Schools are partnerships between Rochester Public Schools, United Way of Olmsted County, the individual school site, and other community resources. In this sense, a community school is both a place and an idea.  

Thanks to these collaborations, teachers can focus on academics while community-based organizations support students’ wellbeing. These services connect students to resources that positively impact their health, give them opportunities to engage in community and leadership development, and ensure they and their families have their basic needs met.  

Local Community Schools currently include Franklin Elementary, Gage Elementary, Riverside Central Elementary, Phoenix Academy, John Adams Middle School, the Alternative Learning Center, and John Marshall High School. 


"The purpose is to provide a holistic approach to education, so focusing on not just the academic piece ... but also the social-emotional side and health, thinking about basic needs like access to food, access to clothing, hygiene items ... All of those things are important to helping a kid be successful at school." - Intisar Khan, Community Site Facilitator at Franklin Elementary School


Why are Community Schools important? 

The Community School model boosts success inside and outside the classroom because it makes sure that students don’t need to worry about things like having clean clothes or enough food. By bringing resources and services on-site to their schools (a place where they’re at quite often!), students’ focus can be on academics during the school day.  

 Data has shown that these services lead to improved student learning, student well-being, stronger families, and healthier communities (Maier et al., 2017).[1] 


Photo of shoes on a metal shelf       Cans of food on metal shelves

Pictured above: Shoes and food available to students at Franklin Elementary through that school's Community Room.


What kind of services are available through Community Schools? 

Each Community School aims to meet all students’ personal needs so that they can focus on their classes when they’re at school. For example, each school has a space stocked with a variety of extra clothing, food, hygiene products, laundry detergent, and more for student use. 

Because each Community School has a different student body with unique needs, each school’s services look different. Below are a few examples of programs Community Schools have implemented to help their students succeed. 

  • High schoolers at the Alternative Learning Center often have a different trajectory than other students their age. To meet their students’ needs, ALC hosts a clinic where students can access basic healthcare and a childcare center for students who are parents to drop their children off while they’re attending class. 

  • Gage Elementary school noticed that there were quite a few students who were consistently arriving at school late, making staying on top of their studies more difficult. To address this issue, Community School staff proposed a “walking school bus” where parents, guardians, and staff could ensure students in the neighborhood arrived at school safely and on time.  

  • To get parents engaged and feeling confident, Franklin Elementary school offers a Steps to Success course. This space offers support and a place for parents and guardians to ask questions on a wide range of topics throughout the school year. 


"Some students, they don't have the things that the school provides. They can't afford it and they don't have it at home, like toothpaste, deodorant, stuff like that. The Resource Room provides different clothes and things for students to wear and be able to access.” - Gio, a student at the Alternative Learning Center


Who has access to the resources in Community School? 

Every child enrolled in a Community School has access to their school’s Resource Room and the other activities run by the Site Facilitators. There are no restrictions based on income or other factors, reducing the stigma associated with accessing these services. 


What is United Way of Olmsted County’s role? 

Since 2017, Rochester Public Schools and United Way have partnered to support the holistic needs of students and families. We have provided staff support, funding, and strategic input to help these efforts to improve student learning, build stronger families, and create a healthier community. 





[1]Maier, A., Daniel, J., & Oakes, J. (2017). Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence [Review of Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence]. In Learning Policy Institute.