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Clearfield Elementary staff and education officials get update on community school initiative

School staff and Prichard Committee officials at Clearfield Elementary in the newly renovated library.
Anabel Peterman
School staff and Prichard Committee officials at Clearfield Elementary in the newly renovated library.

The Prichard Committee launched its Kentucky Community Schools Initiative (KCSI) last year in 20 districts, including Rowan. Clearfield Elementary School is part of the pilot program, conducted in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education. Experts said making Clearfield a “community school” involves partnering with families and local organizations to help boost attendance rates, discipline, learning opportunities, and overall student engagement.

Brigitte Blom is the President and CEO of the Prichard Committee. She said unlike many programs that come into low-income schools, the KCSI aims to build longevity through a gradual approach.

“The primary, kind of unique component to our proposal was saying, we’re going to start slow to go fast. And the starting slow is making sure the community conversation is happening. That helps influence and frame how we at large respond, the school community responds to the unique needs in Rowan County of students and families,” said Blom.

Officials said specific goals include the implementation of a full-time “community schools” director in the district, as well as more outreach events connecting schools, families, and local organizations. So far, the school has hosted multiple new events connecting students, families, and the community, like its first “Reading for Gold” family engagement night. School officials said parents and students alike have given an overwhelmingly positive response through direct feedback and exit surveys.

Alexa Burton is the Principal at Clearfield Elementary. She said one goal is to create room for growth in the classroom, or a “white space,” by removing non-academic barriers. She hopes teachers will benefit from the holistic approach so they can focus fully on teaching.

“We have a counselor here at school, that goes straight to them. That’s not something that I have to figure out as a teacher: who do I give this to, where does this go, what do I do with it? Those types of things,” said Burton. “So, I think it’s very early to say we’ve created this white space, I don’t think we’re there yet. But I think we have a lot of good systems in place, and we’re really bridging those gaps to make that happen for teachers.”

Rowan County schools had 19% of their 3rd-grade students proficient in math in 2021, dropping from 43% pre-covid. In 2023, that number increased to 36% proficient, and officials hope KCSI helps schools recover to pre-pandemic numbers. Rowan County schools also had a 40% chronic absentee rate last school year, but as of early March, less than 10% of students are chronic absentees this year.

More information about KCSI is available at the Prichard Committee website.