GIPS starts pilot of community schools at Lincoln Elementary

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Grand Island Public Schools is launching a new service at one elementary school to provide more resources to families.

The school is partnering with Heartland United Way to bring a pilot of community schools to Lincoln Elementary School.

The services with community schools will be free for students and parents. Some of the services will include basic life support classes, library work, medical checks and classes in financial literacy. They plan on having a program once a week.

School officials said they want to use the building as a hub to bring in some of those necessary services.

"Sometimes we know how to get our kids to school, but because of work schedules or whatever we can't get to other organizations," said Jennifer Worthington, chief of innovation and engagement at GIPS. "So having it here at a place where they're comfortable, at a place where they feel safe, and their children are safe, just allows that opportunity to be available for more families."

Worthington said the program is also a great way to get parents more involved with what their kids are learning at school.

"Anytime we can get parents in to either receive services they need, or to just be in their student's classroom, learning about what we're teaching. Maybe that helps them do homework at home. Parent engagement is very important for a lot of reasons, for community schools and for the district in general," Worthington said.

Heartland United Way is the main partner for the community school. Officials said they wanted to find a way to reach the community, and community school was the perfect opportunity. They said the service will help make kids and their parents more successful.

"We all win when children and families are successful," said Karen Rathke, president of Heartland United Way. "And that return on investment is huge, because we're keeping kids on the right paths. We're having families that aren't struggling, and falling behind, or becoming homeless."

Heartland United Way will also be hiring a family consultant to help families with any challenges they may be facing, and give them the skills they need to overcome them.

School officials said they are looking to start community schools in November, but said it could start as soon as late October.

The first program will be in basic life training.