Public schools need the support of their communities to succeed. They are, after all, public and open to all. It is our responsibility as members of the community to give whatever help and support we can to our neighborhood schools. No one can argue that receiving such support from both individual citizens as well as businesses and corporations are a hindrance. They enable the school communities to feel that they are a part of the neighborhood they serve, and that they are partners in educating tomorrow’s leaders.
In Oregon, Portland Public Schools are benefiting from a great relationship with the surrounding communities. The residents, business owners, school administrators, teachers, students and parents all see the need to work together to ensure the best education possible for Portland Schools students.
For example, Portland Schools have called upon volunteers to come out and work at 65 schools to complete tasks around the grounds. Such tasks include weeding, pruning, mowing, and mulching. The volunteers are needed to do these jobs, since Portland Schools have had to drastically cut its grounds keeping staff. Currently, the district employs only 4 full-time groundskeepers, who must maintain the Portland Schools 750 acres of property. That’s a lot of mowing! Participants of Community Career Day, as the effort has been named, had as many as 1,800 people participating in previous years. After all that hard work, all volunteers can head over to one of the Portland Schools benefiting from this beautification project – Roseway Heights – for a cook-out, music, and the dedication of new playground equipment.
Another example of the community and Portland Schools working together is the Summer Food Service Program being offered to kids aged 1 – 18. In conjunction with the city’s Parks & Recreation department, Portland Schools will offer the free meals at over 60 sites throughout the city. Parks, Portland Schools, pools, community centers and other child-friendly locations are among the different types of locations kids can go to get lunch. Any child can come have lunch on the schools and the city will pick up the tab; economic background is not considered in any way.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds the project, for cities that have schools where more than 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches.
Big corporations can also get into programs that support public schools. Recently, Portland Schools partnered with the Nike School Innovation Fund to launch a new Summer Academy. This program is intended to help more than 400 students prepare for first grade. Nine Portland Schools offered the Summer Academy, which are being fiscally supported by a $250,000 grant from Nike.
While 20 Portland Schools have summer school programs in place, the Summer Academy strives to offer its students a bit more. The program offers its services to all Portland Schools students who demonstrate a need for an additional learning “boost”. Another way that this program differs from other summer programs is its target student body; only exiting kindergartners who need help reaching and exceeding achievement standards participate. Also, Nike volunteers visit the schools and volunteer their time by giving individual tutoring, buddy reading, leading arts and crafts projects, as well as organized games.