Push to expand New York Community School Program

SARANAC LAKE, NY (WCAX) – A program in New York’s North Country that helps students and families in need thrive. They expect a lot of money in the state budget this year.

The pantry is just one part of the Saranac Lake Central School District Community School curriculum.

“We bring outside agencies and their work inside our school to create a hub for families to find resources and for us to do community outreach through our school buildings,” said Erika Bezio, the SLCSD Community School Liaison.

All 1,043 students and their families are part of the program in one way or another, from pencils and school supplies to mental and physical health care to sending children home for the weekend with backpacks full of food.

Programs like this are possible through community collaboration with area nonprofits, all paid for with state grants and individual school budgets.

The New York State United Teachers Union wants more public schools to have access to community school programs. So they’re asking the state to spend $100 million on the effort, doubling the number of participating schools to 800.

“This grant program will do the trick is that it will give districts the money to hire a specific person who will be the principal of the community school who will bring all the resources into the school building” , said Melinda Person of the New York State Unified Teachers. Union.

The Assembly and the Senate are on board, it is now up to Governor Kathy Hochul to include it in her budget.

“Funding needs to be separate for community schools and it needs to be flexible,” said MP Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake.

Advocates say the program needs to be flexible to be successful because no two districts are the same.

“They would do a needs assessment to say what does our community need? What do our students need? What do our staff need to help many of our students be as successful as possible? Bezio said.

Saranac and Lake Placid are also looking to implement the program in their districts, and if they do, they can count on Saranac Lake’s four years of experience.

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