What happens to schools when it is safe to reopen fully? Pundits call for more testing, longer school days, anything to make up for “learning loss.”

Gretchen Dziadosz, executive director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, has a better idea: community schools.

She writes in the Columbus Dispatch:

There is a cost-effective way to keep school doors open 12 hours a day and which provides organized services to students in addition to their normal in-person class time. These are schools in which parents don’t need to pay for after-school day care or private tutoring and students can complete their homework before they come home. Already overburdened, this solution prevents an increase in workload for educators. This solution is called the community schools model.

The most astonishing part is schools following the community schools model provide all these benefits at a fraction of the cost of hiring more teachers to work more hours. Such teachers, by the way, are in very short supply in many parts of the country.

There are already more than 5,000 U.S. community schools, and research shows they succeed in improving student achievement. This proven, successful model can be implemented in many more communities if policymakers, parents and schools have the desire to make it happen.

Imagine school buildings and programs open to families and students all year.

Imagine a school in which students have available tutoring, supervised homework time, mentoring, enhanced science, reading, art, music and sports programs, school clubs, programs with the local zoo or library, computer labs with internet access, dance classes, community theater, whatever the community chooses to provide.

Imagine a school in which the whole family can access programs such as COVID-19 vaccinations, eye exams, mental health services, GED programs, adult enrichment classes, tax services, insurance assistance and sports…

Working together with the school, community resources are brought into the school to improve access and opportunities for students and families. Students struggling with math might have community volunteer tutors. Students without broadband internet at home have access to the computer lab. Students who need reading assistance can work with the local library program.

Read more about how community schools can transforms schools and communities.