Policy brief
Practice brief

Healing-Centered Community School Strategies

A Key Investment for COVID-19 Recovery
Community Schools Cover Image
Hayin Kimner
Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University


A healing-centered community school implements a whole child approach to teaching and learning to address the fundamental physiological and safety needs of students as central to their cognitive development and growth. Strengthening and sustaining such strategies require intentional, complementary investments in policy, funding, and resources across general education, early learning, special education, health, and community development. This publication set provides guidance for educators, policymakers, and advocates who wish to deploy state and federal recovery resources to address immediate student needs and build sustainable systems and practices that serve all students and advance equity.

Foundational Practices of

Healing-Centered Community Schools

Healing Centered Community Schools
Center racial equity and justice by repairing and earning trust
Provide student-centered opportunities to explore, learn, lead, and thrive
Develop systems of support and capacity for meaningful coherence and collaboration
Hold each other rigorously accountable for student success

Healing-centered community schools are organized so that students, teachers, families, and community partners work together to create high-quality teaching and learning conditions. These schools, their leaders, and their educators:

Center racial equity and justice through repairing and earning trust by

  • Proactively addressing the differences in the racial and cultural backgrounds of school staff and students and demonstrating responsibility for culturally, racially, and linguistically responsive practices.
  • Creating opportunities for families to learn and work alongside teachers and school staff to cocreate educational plans that support the learning and development of their children.
  • Emphasizing peer-to-peer and social models of instructional pedagogy.
  • Establishing behavioral management and discipline norms that prioritize and promote mediation and restorative justice practices.

Provide opportunities to explore, learn, lead, and thrive by

  • Teaching that reflects personalized learning, student-owned learning, competency-based learning, and anytime, anywhere learning.
  • Elevating student voice and choice as reflections of student agency and empowerment.
  • Ensuring regular opportunities for student-led feedback of instruction, student-led conferencing, and student-led training for educators and other school staff.
  • Ensuring equitable access and opportunities for enrichment, including extended day and out-of-school time programs.

Provide support and capacity by

  • Having dedicated administrative staff to support and strengthen interdisciplinary, collaborative strategies that identify and address student as well as community assets and needs.
  • Having strong collaborative and coherent structures and practices through interdisciplinary Coordination of Services Teams (COST) or comprehensive implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) including families and community partners.
  • Investing in student-led, peer-to-peer opportunities as meaningful features of the school climate and culture resources throughout the school, ensuring that they are easily and widely accessible for students and teachers.
  • Integrating special education services with whole school strategies as part of MTSS.

Be rigorously accountable for multiple preconditions and dimensions of student success by

  • Using multiple data points, disaggregated by race, to guide conversations with district and community partners, for example, clarifying needs, determining progress goals, measuring improvements, and determining areas for improvement and additional support.
  • Leveraging school, district, and partner resources to build an interdisciplinary, shared data infrastructure, including staffing and support to collect, manage, and facilitate the use of data as part of continuous improvement processes, for example, interpreters/translators, data analysts, and improvement coaches.
  • Ensuring space and time for cross-sector collaboration so that there is protected time and space for teacher and staff collaboration built into the master schedule, enabling teachers to work together. Similarly, there are clear and formal working norms around how teachers and partners effectively use their collaboration times (e.g., grade-level teams, COSTs, cycles of inquiry).
Suggested citationKimner, H. (2021, August). Healing-Centered community school strategies: A key investment for COVID-19 recovery [Policy brief]. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/healing-centered-community-school-strategies