Community Relations within a School Setting

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will explain how to develop and implement relations between a school and a community that effectively involve and inform the students, faculty, families, and the community at large.

The Power of Community Relations

In some ways, a school represents a microcosm, or representation in miniature, of the larger community. A comprehensive community relations program will effectively involve various parts of the community. One way to effectively foster a community relations program within a school is to illustrate how the school is a miniature version of society by helping students draw these comparisons. This way students can be prepared to function as productive members of the community and have an early understanding how everything operates. Let's look at some effective ways to turn students into productive community members with a well-developed understanding of how to function in society.

Children benefit from recognizing that a school functions like a microcosm of society
school as a community

The School Community

The first step to developing and implementing a comprehensive program for community relations can be to help the students, faculty, and community members understand the connection between a school and its community. Facilitate community relations by drawing clear parallels between the school community and the wider community. This can be done by showing that for each element of a school, there is a comparable element in the community. For example, a school may work with the public library in the community. There are many of other places in a town that have a parallel within a school. The school cafeteria is a type of restaurant and purchases food like a grocery store. The school supplies store is similar to a general store. The nurse's office operates like the medical facility. Administration offices can be likened to city hall. Student newsletters are similar to a city newspaper and the morning announcements are like a daily newscast. Helping students understand these parallels can be done creatively through design, signage, mapping, guest speakers, and field trips.

Getting the school out into the community to visit some of these facilities can help the students gain a broader understanding of how communities work. Once you have laid the groundwork for drawing a conceptual parallel between the school and the community, the next step should be to encourage community involvement in the local school system. Generating community involvement in the school can be difficult, so sometimes it helps to illustrate the benefits to those community members that you want to partner with.

For example, by fostering relations with local community agencies and businesses, these groups and businesses can see the benefit of brand recognition among the students. A local restaurant that hosts a field trip with a tour of the kitchen may encourage the families of those students to eat at that restaurant. This kind of loyalty can be priceless advertising, especially to locally owned businesses.

In addition to securing a variety of willing participants for field trip site visits, you will want to ensure that there are established protocols for student behavior, permission slips, chaperones, and transportation policies. Most of these kinds of logistical issues are probably already established at the school. An effective community relations staff person should be well versed in these policies and protocols.

Sometimes it is easier to invite the community into the school rather than take a field trip where the school goes into the community. When a community agency or business provides guest speakers to the school, similar policies and protocols may already be in place that should be followed. Establishing protocols for guests may require researching school district policy about visitation from outside presenters.

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