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Community Schools

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Elementary students playing hula hoop on a colorful playground

What are Community schools?

ANY SCHOOL CAN BE A COMMUNITY SCHOOLIn a community school, the school works together with families and community members to create safe, supportive spaces where students have what they need to learn, families are partners and have what they need to thrive, and communities benefit from stronger, healthier, more informed people.

Using a whole-child approach to education means that we are caring for more than each student’s academic learning; we’re supporting their social-emotional, physical, and mental well-being, too. When children enter community school campuses, whatever their needs are – food insecurity, mental health support, clothing, housing, health screenings, additional learning support – the school supports them holistically.

Envisioning schools as hubs for the surrounding community, this transformative strategy is asset-driven, engages shared decision making, and embraces accountability and continuous improvement through school site advisory councils.

It takes a village

Have a program, service, or resource you'd like to provide through community schools in your service area within San Diego County?

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Belonging in schools

SDCOE'S North Star

An average of 64% of students surveyed answered that they feel connected to school.

Source: California Healthy Kids Survey 2017-19, San Diego County

reduce poverty and increase belonging through public education

Approximately half of all students in San Diego County qualified for free or reduced lunch in the 2022-23 school year. That means they are living in conditions where a family of four has an annual income of $39,000 to $55,000 per year. SDCOE has an ambitious goal to reduce this number from 51% in 2022-23 to 35% by the end of the 2029-30 school year.

The foundation of this work is creating cultures of belonging. Belonging in schools and in our communities is essential for students and families to thrive. Creating a sense of belonging is a powerful remedy for students who don't feel connected or welcome at school. 

Every child deserves to feel accepted for who they are
and to have the opportunity to share their greatest assets.
- Dr. Gloria E. Ciriza
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools


Our strategy to reach the North Star is transformative teaching and learning in community schools

California statute defines community schools as public schools with “strong and intentional community partnerships ensuring pupil learning and whole child and family development.” In practice, each community school may look different. That’s because community schools are not just places, there’s a strategy and framework for collaborating and co-creating each school as the hub for its surrounding community.

The California State Board of Education approved the California Community Schools Framework in 2022. In collaboration with education practitioners, researchers, and policymakers across the country, four national partners — the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, the Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools, the Coalition for Community Schools at IEL, and the Learning Policy Institute — launched the Community Schools Forward project to implement and scale up community schools. 

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Essentials for Community School Transformation

elementary students around table

Explore the Community Schools "Wheel"
Essentials for Community Schools Transformation

Partnerships power thriving Community schools

Community schools partner with education, county, and other nonprofit entities to provide integrated services in supportive instructional environments that strongly focus on community, family, and student engagement. Anchored in the shared responsibility to support our children’s futures, partnerships strengthen collaboration and capacity-building efforts across the region. The diversity of our partners provides a strong foundation for the community schools framework to flourish. 

Partner Spotlight

Government and education sectors can be key partners in creating healthy environments for children to learn, grow, and reach their full potential. SDCOE and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) have worked together for many years to build and create conditions for San Diego County children and families to thrive.

Live Well Schools is an HHSA initiative that is part of Live Well San Diego, the County’s dynamic vision to create a healthy, safe, and thriving region. In 2023, SDCOE and HHSA began discussing how the two organizations can strengthen their partnerships and align resources and expertise to be more responsive to the needs of the students and families we serve.

  • Tools for Schools is a database of more than 500 free or low-cost resources available to schools in San Diego County.
  • The Live Well Schools program map pinpoints the 34 Health and Human Services programs and services that are in place and available to the nearly 800 schools in San Diego County.
  • The  Education Sector Virtual Connection Hub is a space for educators to collaborate, share stories, resources, and best practices. Select the Community Schools tab to access the recording and Q&A from the panel discussion during the April 2024 K-12 Sector Briefing.
Logo for the County of San Diego's Health and Human Services Agency's Live Well initiative


Becoming a community school

Starting in the 2021-22 school year, and with funding through the 2027-28 school year, the California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) is funding planning, implementation, and coordination grants for schools and districts. Schools do not need to be grant-funded to begin the transformative journey to becoming a community school.

As one of eight Regional Technical Assistance Centers (R-TAC) throughout California, the San Diego County Office of Education – in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education, the Imperial County Office of Education, and Community Schools Learning Exchange, supports districts and schools in the Southern California region in building capacity to drive their community schools efforts –  is helping districts and schools to implement the community schools strategy and have a more responsive, community-centered method of supporting students. The Southern Coast R-TAC partners work collectively to assist emerging and existing community schools through creating support networks, sharing best practices, planning for success, leveraging funding, and coordinating services.

triangle SDCOE emblem

Main Contacts

Dr. Felicia Singleton
Executive Director, Community Schools
Whole Child and Community Design

Dr. Erin M. Mahoney 
Senior Director, Community Schools 
Whole Child and Community Design 

Dr. Monica Loyce 
District Advisor, Community Schools 
Whole Child and Community Design 

Roberto Carrillo 
District Advisor, Community Schools 
Whole Child and Community Design 

Karin Giron
Project Specialist, Community Schools
Whole Child and Community Design

Aida Hairston 
Business Support Assistant I 
Whole Child and Community Design