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Pittsburgh Public to expand community schools program

The former woodshop classroom at Pittsburgh Langley K-8 now serves a different purpose. 


The space — which the Pittsburgh Public Schools district recently renovated — is piled with personal hygiene products, clothing and shoes, sorted by gender and size. Smart whiteboards hang on the walls, and a number of community groups take advantage of the long conference table to hold their meetings. 


“Kids come down all the time,” said Lingaire Nije, Langley’s community schools site coordinator. 


The Sheraden school was one of the first five to be designated by Pittsburgh Public Schools as a “community school” when the district launched the new initiative in 2017. Since then, Ms. Nije has spent her time crafting new partnerships with community and social services organizations in the West End; maintaining the schedule for use of the space; and ensuring that all of Langley’s community partners have the proper permits and clearances to work in the school. 


Community schools are meant to serve as a services hub for families and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. 


Additional dental services will soon be available for students in the Langley building with the help of a dental practice in Wexford, Ms. Nije said. The school also is working with an organization to provide eyeglasses to students who need them. Construction will soon begin on a new playground, because the former high school building doesn’t currently have one. GED classes will be offered at the building during the evenings. 


“Ultimately, we want to improve student outcomes,” said Monte Robinson, PPS’ coordinator of community schools. “Really, the core of the work is to eliminate any barriers to student achievement.”


The past year has been dedicated to “infrastructure building” at the district’s first community schools, and PPS announced last month that the district had designated three more, bringing the total number to eight: Pittsburgh Arlington K-8, Pittsburgh King K-8 on the North Side and Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12 in the Hill District. They join Langley, Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville, Lincoln PreK-5 in Larimer and Faison K-5 and Westinghouse High School, both in Homewood.


“It's really about lessons learned and making sure we carry best practices forward,” said Errika Fearbry Jones, chief of staff to Superintendent Anthony Hamlet.


Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Public to expand community schools program