Sunday, August 24 2014 12:56 AM EDT2014-08-24 04:56:42 GMT
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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - New programs are being used by Knox County Schools to improve student education.
A pilot program called Community Schools was begun in 2012. The goal is to make the school the hub of the community.
The program has already expanded from three to seven schools.
Officials say getting the community involved in the school is beneficial for the students, parents and surrounding neighborhoods.
Airiana Miller is a third grader at Norwood Elementary School. For her, the after-school community activities don't seem like school work.
"I'm about to go play games, like different kinds of games," Airiana said.
Community schools are about more than book work.
Norwood Elementary Resource Coordinator Liz Thacker says the doors are kept open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Community members and groups volunteer time with children after school and do fun educational activities.
Teachers also offer after-school small group instruction.
Thacker says the extra time and community involvement makes an impact on the students.
"Individual kids who are not your top performing children in a classroom were shy to raise their hand. Now due to staying after school and having their learning day extended, they are the kids who are leading groups," said Thacker.
Monica Brown is a teacher and a parent. She has been teaching at Norwood Elementary School for six years. Her son is a fifth grader at Norwood Elementary School.
As the school transitioned into a community school she says her son changed as well.
"I've seen him grow quite a bit as far as his maturity, and wanting to participate in events and things that are going on. He's exposed to more things," said Brown.
Free dinner is offered to students and their parents. Other services are also in the process of being provided, like literacy and GED programs for adults and mental health assistance.
"If you have a better school and you have a better community families are wanting to move in to those communities," said Thacker.
While the main goal is to improve the students' grades, eight-year-old Airiana Miller says the after-school activities are fun and a time to make new friends.
"I love making new friends. New friends are kind of cool because you get to meet new friends and start playing with them and they can be your real friend," said Airiana.
The program is funded by grants and private donations.