By John Bernhardt
There are many advantages of small schools. Study after study lauds the potential positive impact learning in a small school offers students. The more we learn, the more we appreciate that bigger is not always better.
Students with a secure sense of belonging tend to do better in school. On average, students attending small, community schools outperform youngsters in large, more industrial settings.
Involved students go to and stay in school. Improved school attendance and graduation rates are a common characteristic of small schools.
Extracurricular participation lessens a sense of alienation found in larger schools and helps students feel they belong. Students with a strong school identity build more confidence, have greater self-esteem and show more responsibility for self-direction than their peers from larger schools.
Yet, the fact remains, you can have good and bad small or large schools. The best small schools are those that push the advantages beyond academic and social gains to positively influence the communities they serve. To maximize effectiveness, small rural schools build individual and community capacity.
Effective small schools are more than settings that provide a solid basic education. In most small communities the school is a cultural center, a commonly used meeting place that brings people together for many purposes. Residents of the community attend athletic contests, drama and musical events and social activities. Strong school/community partnerships help connect youth with the norms, values and traditions that are the lifeblood of a community.
The best small schools go even further. These settings develop community based-learning initiatives that provide community viability that translates into positive economic, social and environmental impacts on the community.
At Andes, we recognize we have work to do in this area. Addressing those ends, ACS is unveiling a series of School/Community events. Using resources already allocated to provide expanded program opportunities for students at the school, we hope to invite and involve members of the community in targeted events.
For example, on October 5, ACS will sponsor a school/ community field trip. Honor Behavior Level Students in the middle school grades, 5-8, are eligible to attend La Grande Cirque, a spellbinding program at the Times Union Center in Albany. To integrate school and community, two blocks of tickets have been purchased, one block for students and one block for community members interested in attending the event. Two school buses will provide transportation; a student bus and an adult bus. Forty student tickets and 35 adult tickets have been purchased.
La Grande Cirque is the first of several school/community initiatives in the planning stages. Keep current with school/community news by visiting our website, www.andescentralschool.org. The Andes webpage is filled with information about ACS. A news story about the school/community concept has a link that provides a movie preview and other information about the trip to La Grand Cirque. Updates can be found here advertising future school/community activities.
A committee of school staff members charged with strengthening the school/community connection is in the development stages.