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Boise Community Schools Model Supports Families Outside Classroom

Six schools in the Boise School District are providing services to make sure students are fed and have the proper clothing in the classroom. (Dan Hollar/Boise School District)
Six schools in the Boise School District are providing services to make sure students are fed and have the proper clothing in the classroom. (Dan Hollar/Boise School District)
September 12, 2019

BOISE, Idaho – Children are back in the classroom, but the students who are worried about food, clothing or housing have an extra test to learning.

That's where Boise's Community Schools Program is stepping in, going beyond the bounds of the classroom to provide health and social services to families.

All schools involved in the program are Title I, with large populations of low-income students.

The Boise School District's Whitney Elementary is one of six schools in the district involved in the program.

Principal Amy Pinkerman says Whitney has a dental clinic, food pantry, clothing closet and mental health services.

"Having all of those resources provided at the school empowers families to be able to be the best parents they can be, and in return students are able to do their very best," she states.

Pinkerman says staff members have trauma-informed training, which helps them better care for students and also identify why a student may not have the stamina for a whole academic day.

The program began in 2016 and is generating interest outside Boise, including in Caldwell, Kuna, Lake Pend Oreille and Marsing.

With a large student refugee population, many languages spoken and a varying degree of access to technology, Pinkerman says communication with families sometimes is a hurdle.

But Whitney has services for parents too. It partners with the College of Western Idaho to provide English language classes and has parenting classes to help with at home teaching skills.

Pinkerman says the goal is to engage parents.

"We identify and value that parent involvement as more than just attending the PTO meeting or coming to a parent-teacher conference,” she states. “Parents come and ask for help on parenting.”

Pinkerman says partnerships are key to holding up community schools and notes that Whitney relies on local counseling agencies and even dollar stores to provide this model.

She says the hope is that teachers are able to focus on teaching, students on learning and parents on meeting the basic needs of their children.

"From those perspectives, you have all of these partnerships that are providing the resources in order for those three entities to be able to do what they need to do," she explains.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID