Local Politics

South Portland’s Middle School Introduces A New ‘Community School’ Model

A photo showing construction at South Portland’s middle school development project near the Memorial Middle School on Wescott Road. Photo courtesy of Elora Griswold.

In an effort to help assist over 300 students reportedly struggling with stable housing and COVID-related challenges, South Portland’s superintendent, Tim Matheney, shared in a recent interview with News Center Maine that the city’s brand-new middle school for fifth- through eighth-grade students will be adopting a ‘community model’ upon the building’s completion in September of 2023. The model would operate similarly to the Community School in Camden, meaning the middle school would offer services that help students beyond the classroom–such as resources like medical, dental, behavioral health care, extracurricular enrichment activities for students, adult education services, and job placement services.

Supporters of the new model say it will help address the significant need among South Portland students and their families. According to Brian Cavanaugh, the McKinney-Vento liaison with the South Portland School Department, more than 500 students were McKinney-Vento-eligible last year. This means these students didn’t have stable housing situations, were sharing housing with another family, staying in a car, or living in inadequate housing without essentials like electricity or an internet connection. 

The middle school’s future programs are made possible through a $664,000 grant from American Rescue Plan Act funds that the South Portland school district applied for and received. The grant will directly help fund the aforementioned services while also paying the salary of two new roles that will facilitate community operations at the middle school–a community school director and family partnerships coordinator. The two will work in conjunction to investigate local families’ needs and actively work to build community amongst struggling families in South Portland. 

Currently, the South Portland school district is forming an advisory board to better understand the needs of South Portland residents and address input on what parents would like to see included in the new ‘community model.’ If you or someone you know would like to provide feedback on the issue, you can email South Portland’s superintendent Tim Matheney at mathenti@spsdme.org.

Elora welcomes students and faculty to reach out with suggestions for articles– you can reach her via email at eloraagriswold@smccme.edu or on Instagram at @elora.abigail.

Categories: Local Politics

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