LA CROSSE, Wis. - A new initiative begins at two elementary school buildings.
The La Crosse School District introduced Community Schools at the start of the school year at both Northside/Coulee Montessori and Hamilton/SOTA I Elementary schools.
The initiative is intended to meet the needs of a student's entire family who might be living in crisis.
The hope is that by removing the barriers to necessary resources, students will be able to focus in the classroom.
“So that barriers are broken down and families can really access the supports and services to be their best,” said Sara Jackson, community school coordinator at Hamilton/SOTA I Elementary.
Both schools are currently surveying their families, teachers and neighborhoods to determine their most pressing needs.
“We talk a lot about adverse childhood experiences, but we also need to look at adverse childhood environments, as well,” said Ben Burns, principal for Hamilton/SOTA I.
If the schools' surveys find that families need to be connected to things like housing, food, medical or transportation resources, the coordinators can work to match families with the services they need to be stable.
“If we can help address some of those other needs,” said Burns, “then students become more available for learning. Whether that is physically by improved attendance, mentally by ability to focus and not be so hungry or even just emotionally -- not being worried, anxious, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight?’”
By identifying needs and building relationships, professionals at both schools hope to make a big impact on the lives of children.
“You can think of the student as a whole,” said Danya Day, community school coordinator at Northside/Coulee Montessori Elementary. “You can think of their family. You can think of their community. You can think of the activities that they do, and you can take all of that and collaboratively build them to be stronger individuals.”
And because both Northside and Hamilton sometimes share families, the district launched the initiative at both locations.
“So we know that we need a coordinated approach to make sure we have things consistent for families; that we have the services involved,” said Laura Huber, principal at Northside/Coulee Montessori Elementary.
Huber says the new community school effort speaks to the values and good work of the district.
“This is a game changer for our families,” said Huber.
The schools hope to have their surveys completed by the end of the month.
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