There is a traditional view of what a high school should be — a place where students get a good education to prepare them to go to college or for the workplace.
But should it be more? Perhaps.
Albuquerque Public Schools is partnering with Youth Development Inc. on a community school at West Mesa High. The idea is to keep students and their families engaged by bringing services into the school to fill personal needs that mostly have no direct connection to education.
Initial funding is through a grant that is part of a larger initiative from the private Lumina Foundation, whose ultimate goal is to increase the number of students who graduate from college. The University of New Mexico is administering the grant; APS is providing the space.
The program already is in Grant and Wilson Middle Schools where YDI provides social workers and behavioral health services, the YMCA offers extended learning and UNM pediatrics delivers primary health care and dental care.
APS associate superintendent Eddie Soto is enthusiastic. “Students go there for an education, but at the same time, in a community schools model, they also have access to basic medical services, dental services, counseling services, tutoring services,” he says.
All that sounds great. But what happens if funding runs out? Soto says perhaps there would be other grants or state or federal money available. Frank Mirabal, YDI’s vice president for educational support, says so far the cost has never been passed on to the district.
But back to what a high school should be.
With New Mexico’s bottom-of-the-barrel proficiency and graduation numbers and a worrisome minority achievement gap, the focus should be on graduating proficient students of all races.
The community school approach might help, but many questions remain. Its benefits should be carefully measured and regularly reported on to determine its value before attempts are made to expand it or make it permanent.
And if it passes the test, lawmakers should look at funding from various sources that typically provide these services to supplement the process of education, a school’s primary mission.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.