The Leon County School district will put its long-talked about community school at Sabal Palm Elementary. Superintendent Rocky Hanna says it’s the natural location since Florida State University is putting a medical lab nearby.
Community schools combine academic, health and social services with the intention of boosting student performance. Putting the model in place in Leon County has been talked about for the past two years. And now the school district has finally named its first community school site. Sabal Palm Elementary School.
“That area in and around Sabal Palm, is not only is it a food desert it’s also a healthcare desert,” said Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
He says the school was chosen due to its proximity to Florida State University's new healthcare clinic.
Joining Leon Schools and Florida State University are the Children’s Home Society, and Florida A&M University’s College of Education. All the groups have signed on for a long-term collaboration, up to 25 years in other community school models. CHS and Leon Schools have put up $25,000 each to fund a director for the school, and the Tallahassee City Commission is contributing $35,000. That person should be in place no later than the Summer:
“They can start making the plans and organizing. In the meantime, FSU will get the clinic up and running this Summer. And I say around the first of the year, in January, we should be operating at full speed and be ready to go to the public with all the wraparound services and providers that are helping play a part in it," Hanna said.
Early contenders for the community school site included Hartsfield Elementary School and the old Wesson School on Orange Avenue. They all serve a large number of students from low-income families.
“I don’t want people to think we just picked one school," said school board member and former SAIL High School Principal Roseanne Wood. "We’re starting with one school. And if we can make this model work and have a showcase, I think we can figure out how to provide some of these services at our other schools.”
Wood says Sabal Palm is just the beginning. The district is working on number of different initiatives aimed at improving the quality of its schools—especially those serving minority and low-income students.