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UFT Community Learning Schools Initiative reaps a state grant

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Sen. Jeff Klein and UFT President Michael Mulgrew
Jonathan Fickies

State Sen. Jeff Klein (at left) looks on as UFT President Michael Mulgrew extols the community school model and credits Klein for being one of the early supporters.

Jonathan Fickies

State Sen. Jeff Klein (at left) looks on as UFT President Michael Mulgrew extols the community school model and credits Klein for being one of the early supporters.

State Sen. Jeff Klein announced another $1.5 million grant for the UFT NYC Community Learning Schools Initiative on Sept. 10 at a press conference with UFT President Michael Mulgrew at the International School for Liberal Arts in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx.

The International School for Liberal Arts, referred to as ISLA, was celebrated as a model for what could be replicated throughout the city’s public schools by providing academic supports and services to students and their families who are struggling economically.

 Klein, a Democrat whose district includes the Bronx, has provided nearly $4 million in state funds to the UFT NYC Community Learning Schools Initiative to expand services at the initiative’s 25 schools. The additional state funding has enabled ISLA to expand services, including quality after-school programs and clubs for middle-school students; a well-stocked food pantry for families in distress, provided in partnership with the Food Bank For New York City; and a school-based health clinic for students and their families staffed with the help of another partner, Montefiore Hospital. A pool that had been unused for decades was refurbished and back in use this summer.

“This is a true success story,” said Klein. “Community learning schools make the school the focal point of the community.”

“This is something special and dear to us,” said Mulgrew about the NYC Community Learning Schools Initiative. “Our community learning schools vision was to take care of students first, and then expand services to the community. And Jeff Klein was one of the first to support us.”

UFT Vice President Karen Alford, the director of the initiative, said: “When you help families, you help communities.”

ISLA is a 6-12 school with 600 students, including many English language learners whose first language is Spanish. The school shares a building with four other schools known as the Walton Educational Campus. School staff estimates that nearly a fifth of ISLA’s students are in temporary housing, in a shelter or doubled up with other family members.

Frank Cutrone, the school’s resource coordinator, pointed out that student attendance has increased since the introduction of wraparound services. The school also saw an uptick in middle school reading scores.