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Community, Schools, 3rd Place


I own a business that is modeled after the Third Place theory, which posits that communities need a gathering spot outside of home and work. Many buildings in a community can serve as a third place- rec centers, religious houses, libraries, bookstores, and schools. In more and more cities and towns, the school building is shifting from just an education for kids center from 8am to 3pm to a building that serves the community in a variety of ways.


"Over the past 15 years, the role of "place" has grown more important in education, as schools with highest numbers of students from low-income families have increasingly become the location, the hub, where the country's neediest students and families seek not only a high-quality education, but also the supports and opportunities that create conditions for learning. Schools have a special role in the resurging field of place-based approaches to education and neighborhood." (Brookings Institute, Community Schools: A place-based approach to education and neighborhood change, Rueben Jacobson, 2016)


Looking at a school as a third place, community hub fits with the "whole child" approach and focuses on keeping neighborhood schools open, two things I am a proponent of. The idea of the place-based approach to education is not new. It can be traced back in theory to educational philosopher and the father of U.S. public education, John Dewey, and social activist Jane Adams. Dewey posited that a school should be "social center" in a community where citizens gathered for not only schooling but social activities, job training, and medical needs. Jane Adams created similar place-based hubs in her settlement houses where citizens got the support they needed. The idea of the community third place has been revitalized in recent years, and there are currently 5,000 schools in the country operating thusly.



So what does this look like? The Coalition for Community Schools uses the following definition of a community school:

"Using schools as hubs, community schools bring educators, families, and community partners together to offer a range of opportunities, supports, and services to children, youth as well as their families and communities... Every community school responds to unique local needs and includes the voices of students, families, and residents. Schools become center of the community and are open to everyone- beyond school hours, including evenings and weekends."


Community schools don't just happen, and do require additional funding and staff. With grants and community donations, Lititz could have a great community school. Two buildings are in higher density neighborhoods, where the lower income families could walk to receive services. As our student population lessens, we can keep all four elementary schools open, by converting unused classrooms to the community gathering spots, to medical clinic rooms, to counseling centers, to food banks, to after care centers for working parents. This is a vision I have for our community in the coming years and decades.

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