Community

Caldwell among six cities taking part in initiative to improve children’s lives

Winding paths with picnic tables and green landscapes are all part of the Indian Creek restoration project in downtown Caldwell. It’s among many of the positive amenities in the city.
Winding paths with picnic tables and green landscapes are all part of the Indian Creek restoration project in downtown Caldwell. It’s among many of the positive amenities in the city. Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

Caldwell is the recipient of a big honor.

It’s one of just six U.S. cities chosen to participate in the Mayors’ Institute on Advancing Education and Health in May.

Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas, School District Superintendent Shalene French and United Way of Treasure Valley CEO Nora Carpenter will travel to Pennsylvania where they will join mayors from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia; Penn.; Rancho Cucamonga, California; and Toledo, Ohio, for the program.

The institute will focus on the “community school” strategy, or the idea of strengthening schools with the help of their communities.

United Way of Treasure Valley, the City of Caldwell and the Caldwell School District are working now to launch Sacajawea Elementary School in Caldwell as a demonstration “community school” in the fall of 2017.

While lots of schools across the Treasure Valley have been working toward a community school model, the formal strategy is new to Idaho, said Carpenter. The strategy uses existing public schools as “hubs” to enlist different kinds of groups in the community to support school programs and opportunities for students and their families. Some of those supports include financial literacy, health and dental services and hands-on opportunities to explore various career options in school and after school.

The reason the community school idea is gaining traction, said Carpenter, is that “schools are not able to address all the needs of kids and their families on their own.” At the same time, there are community groups able and willing to provide services.

The Caldwell School District is among the most economically challenged in the area.

Sacajawea Elementary is the perfect test case for the strategy, said Carpenter. While the school’s neighborhood is rich with cultural diversity and “folks who care deeply,” said Carpenter, “it’s geographically, literally cut off from access to groceries and other resources by the Interstate. Bringing resources, like health services, to the school makes sense.”

The Caldwell community has had a similar strategy, the “cradle to career education initiative,” also known as P-16, in place since 2010 (P stands for preschool, 16 stands for grades 1-12 plus four years of college). The community’s willingness to try new ideas like P-16 is one of the reasons it was chosen to participate, said Carpenter. She praised the leadership of Nancolas for welcoming progressive programs in Caldwell.

Not only is Caldwell one of six communities chosen for the program in May, it is also one of the smallest, said Carpenter.

“This really is great for Caldwell and for the community,” she said.

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