Gov. Polis Signs Community Schools Bill into Law

Emphasizing local solutions, Community Schools bring academics, health and social services, and community engagement together under one roof


April 8, 2019

DENVER – Gov. Polis signed Senate Bill 102 today, giving communities a positive, evidence-based, comprehensive strategy they can use to transform schools into hubs of parental and community engagement.

“While some Colorado school districts are threatening to turn over the public education of our children to national, for-profit companies, this law gives power to local people who want a better path forward to meet the diverse needs of the students they know and hold dear,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association. “Community Schools are a phenomenal opportunity for all stakeholders to engage and find local solutions that will support students, families and educators. I personally want to thank Governor Polis and the prime sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Rachel Zenzinger and Rep. Brianna Titone, for supporting Community Schools in Colorado.”

Community Schools teachers Carrie Weaver and Rhiannon Wenning all smiles at the Capitol after Gov. Polis signed SB-102 into law, Apr. 8.

“This bill is incredibly important because of all of the research that shows the Community Schools model has great potential to work in our struggling schools, our schools of poverty and our turnaround schools in particular,” said Sen. Zenzinger after the bill signing. “Community Schools work because they take a community approach to addressing the in-school barriers and out-of-school barriers students face so they can focus on learning.”

The law will permit a public school wanting to operate as an Innovation School to include operation as a Community School in its innovation plan. It raises up a clear, evidence-based definition of Community Schools so that if a school applies for innovation status, there will be a transparent goal for all stakeholders to devise and deliver tailored support services that will help students overcome barriers to academic success.

Rhiannon Wenning is the community school site coordinator at Jefferson Jr./Sr. High in Jefferson County, one of the first community schools in the state. “The Community Schools approach is rooted in the belief that strong connections between the school and local resources benefit all students, families and communities. We have increased learning expectations, as well as our graduation rate, because students feel more supported. Jefferson is transforming into the school we want it to be, and that our community wants to be a part of, as a Community School,” Wenning said.

According to the National Education Association, Community School is a set of strategic partnerships that allows public schools to comprehensively address the full range of a child’s needs (academic, health, nutritional, psychological), especially those needs arising from poverty. Community Schools strengthen students, support parents and build up neighborhoods by aligning schools with community resources. Students in Community Schools across the country have lower rates of absenteeism, higher enrollment in college preparatory classes, higher graduation rates, and better work habits, grades, test scores, and behavior.

“There are so many members of the community who want to help us but don’t know a way to do that,” said Carrie Weaver, a fifth-grade teacher at another community school, Malley Drive Elementary in Adams 12. “Community Schools bring the community into school, like we’ve always wanted, to help meet other student needs. It’s more about the way schools used to be, where the school is the hub of the community instead of just a little part of the community.”