Sabal Palm Elementary is Leon County’s first “community school”. The partnership between the Leon School District, Florida State and Florida A&M Universities and the Children’s Home Society was announced last year as part of an effort to increase support to underserved schools. The project has been years in the making.
Representatives of the groups, including district superintendent Rocky Hanna were on hand for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.
“It was a proud moment. We have a lot to celebrate and a lot to be thankful for. Like any large organization, there’s a lot of work to be done,” Hanna told school board members later in the day.
Community Schools combine education, counseling, support, mentoring and other services. The model has proven to be successful and has been replicated in schools across the state.
Sabal Palm partnership director Anna Kay Hutchinson says more services for the school are in the works. Bond will provide dental care. The Children's Home Society will provide mental health support. Leadership Tallahassee is planning to build an outdoor classroom and the Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI) is planning to put a "Little Free Library" on the site.
Talks of introducing the model to Leon County emerged three years ago and several sites have been proposed over the years--from Hartsfield Elementary, to the Wesson School on Orange Avenue. All three schools serve large numbers of low-income students. Sabal Palm won out, largely due to its proximity to FSU's primary health clinic nearby.
“I don’t want people to think we just picked one school," school board member and former SAIL High School Principal Roseanne Wood said last year when the partnership was announced.