Located directly across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) is an urban/suburban district serving nearly 24,000 students in 35 schools, 18 of which have on-site Family-Community Resource Centers (FCRCs). Increasingly, FCRCs are hubs of the community. They mobilize resources, develop partnerships, and advocate for families and students in America’s Vancouver -- students whose ability to learn is greatly impacted by factors a traditional school model simply could not address.
Being ready to learn at the highest capacity has a lot of prerequisites that are outside a child’s control. Food insecurity, homelessness, job instability, healthcare, and access to clean clothes are challenges many students bring to school, where they are presented with learning goals and homework and growth plans to add to their mental backpack. The more unresolved challenges they carry, the less room there is to learn and carry their growing knowledge, skills, and habits of mind.
Poverty is not a learning disability, but its effects present a real barrier to student academic success. Around 800, or three percent, of VPS students qualify as homeless, 46 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and 24 percent are from homes where a language other than English is primary. The challenges facing students and their families outside school walls can reduce a child’s capacity to learn on any given day.
In 2002, VPS established its first community schools program. Since then, the district has scaled the program to 18 Family Community Resource Centers and two mobile FCRCs that serve the 17 schools without site-based centers.
Through FCRCs, VPS connects families to health care, housing assistance, transportation, food, clothing, hygiene items, school supplies, and more. The centers provide opportunities for parents to engage with the school, creating fun and accessible ways of connecting those who may have had historically negative relationships with school systems. They are a powerful conduit and organizer of community resources and energy, offering clear ways for community partners to help provide needed support to families. FCRCs are focused on improving student achievement and helping schools and communities develop the citizens and leaders of tomorrow. VPS is committed to preparing all learners—not just the most privileged students—to be graduates ready for future success in college, careers, and life.