Sept. 15, 2023 --
Children spend more time in their school buildings than anywhere else outside the home. Because of this simple fact, it makes sense to provide children with all their basic needs right at their school site. This is the idea behind Ohio’s Community Learning Centers, sometimes known as “community schools’ or schools with “wrap-around services.”
Cleveland Heights’ Oxford Elementary is one such CLC, launched this year under the leadership of Sabrina Ollie, who served as the lunchroom coordinator there for 16 years before earning her social work degree. When asked if Oxford feels like home, she quickly replied, “Oxford is home.”
It’s also home for its several hundred students and is now a place where they can access basic health and wellness care, after-school enrichment, and sometimes even haircuts. Ollie helps coordinate partnerships with community resources, from MetroHealth and the Cleveland Food Bank to Lake Erie Ink and the Heights Libraries.
According to a Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, white paper
co-authored by Nancy Peppler, the district’s Supervisor of Community and School Partnerships, the Whole Child Framework places the student at the center with school, family, district, and community surrounding them to meet their needs. Such a system has positively impacted school attendance, behaviors, family engagement, test scores, and grades. A study by the Learning Policy Institute found that every dollar invested in CLCs produces $15 in return down the road.
While Ollie is still waiting on the results of a formal needs assessment to determine what the school community is looking for, she has already jumped in since beginning her work in July. One highlight was a back-to-school event at Oxford for Noble, Oxford, and Monticello families that featured sign-ups for after-school enrichment, consent for students to be treated by MetroHealth, and free school supplies and haircuts.
Ensuring that students feel ready and welcomed and that their vaccinations and health forms are up-to-date, all help to kick the year off in a positive and productive way. The five tenets of the Whole Child Framework, that children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, “recognize that students’ basic physiological and psychological needs must be met before they can fully engage in complex learning and social activities,” according to the white paper.
In order to expand and enrich learning, one of the four main pillars of CLCs, Ollie has arranged for free after-school programming, including a twice-weekly two-hour session offered by Lake Erie Ink and a weekly chess club. She’s also organizing Fantastic Fridays, monthly events organized around themes such as Health and wellness and wellness. “I really want to expose parents and families to all the available resources,” said Ollie, ensuring community support is evident at all school events.
Upcoming events include Fathers’ Walk on September 21.