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Federal government funding aims to boost community schools across Illinois

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(The Center Square) – Two federal grants have been awarded to support the initiation and expansion of Full-Service Community Schools in Illinois.

The United States Department of Education announced that the Afterschool for Children and Teens Now Coalition (ACT Now), an organization that supports after-school programs and community schools statewide, was awarded a five-year grant with an annual award for each grant of up to $9.4 million. This will total $94,204,000 for Illinois schools over five years.

“From the federal government, we’ve really seen a priority in funding this framework of learning and support,” said Emma Spencer, policy and communications manager with ACT Now.

Full-service Community Schools are partnerships between schools and surrounding community resources, with a focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and family and community engagement.

Spencer said ACT Now plans to partner with the Illinois State Board of Education and school districts throughout the state to implement the community schools model.

“We’re looking for work with about sixteen school districts statewide, not only downstate, but certainly in newer areas of Illinois where there hasn’t necessarily been this model before,” said Spencer.

She adds that the funding through the Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) Grant Program will provide support for the planning, implementation, and operation of full-service community schools, particularly for children attending high-poverty rural schools. This includes after school programs.

“Most community schools will have a before-care program or after-school program, then put on different types of family engagement opportunities for community members,” she said.

Spencer said more about how school districts and community-based organizations can be involved in this effort will be forthcoming.

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