Red Bank High School's community school program, the first in Hamilton County, celebrates its first anniversary Jan. 9.
The pilot community school program is part of the Chattanooga 2.0 movement, a community-led effort focused on transforming education and workforce opportunities in Hamilton County, and is also part of Hamilton County Schools' Opportunity Zone initiative providing support to the district's struggling schools.
"It's helped us to recognize how great student needs are, and how diverse, and how much help a nonprofit partner in the schools can provide," said Rachel Gammon, CEO of Northside Neighborhood House, a community partner in the project.
"NNH would love to replicate this model in other schools in our footprint and support other nonprofits that want to support the schools being a resource for the community."
With advances in technology and the corresponding evolution of the school's library, the administration at Red Bank High School was looking to repurpose some of the library space. The school received grants from both the city of Red Bank and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to renovate the space, now called "The Hub," so that it could be used to benefit not only the students, but the whole Red Bank community — turning it into a community school, explained Principal Elaine Harper.
To launch the program, the school partnered with NNH, a local nonprofit organization which promotes the independence of people living north of the river by providing a hand up through education and assistance; a mission that aligns with that of the community school.
"The goal of our community school at Red Bank is to provide support as well as access to resources for students, families and the community so that they may thrive," said Gammon, who is also a member of the Chattanooga 2.0 Steering Committee.
Harper said the partnership with the nonprofit allows the school to better meet the needs of the whole child and focus on what it does best: education.
"Schools can't do it all; we're mainly equipped to educate," she said. "If basic needs aren't being met, it's difficult to learn."
The community school's offerings include the LEOS (Leadership.Excellence.Opportunity.Scholars.) after-school program held Monday-Thursday until 5 p.m., when students can access the internet and resources including tutoring and mental and behavioral counseling. The YMCA provides a substantial afternoon snack to participants in the program, which is open to all students at the school, said Harper.
The after-school program served 179 students from August through October, with a daily average of 57 students participating, according to data provided by NNH.
The community school also offers resources for parents, such as a Free Application for Federal Student Aid workshop, and provides classes for older adults studying to take the HiSET exam to earn a state-issued high school equivalency credential.
Harper also said community members have the option to rent the space for group meetings.
When she asked student participants what they liked about the program, Harper said Community School Coordinator Stephanie Hayes' name kept coming up. Having an adult whom they feel cares about them makes a huge difference in the lives of some of these students, Harper said.
"Someone is checking in with them all the time, and they have a time and place to do their work," said Harper, as to how she thinks the program is contributing to the students' academic success. "A lot of these students would otherwise be home alone."
Seventy-two percent of participants were passing all classes, and 92 percent of possible credits were attained by participating students, according to NNH's data.