Laton Joint Unified School District has been awarded a $3 million grant, money that will allow the small district to move in a new direction, according to officials.
Laton is located nine miles northeast of Hanford and has a population of fewer than 2,000 residents.
For residents, however, the school district plays a vital role in their everyday lives, according to Jessie Betancourt, community school coordinator.
“Laton is a very small community, the school district serves as the hub, everything that kinda happens here is brought to you by the district, so the state has acknowledged that school districts like ours serve the entire community,” said Betancourt.
In Laton's school district all major decisions are first considered and decided on by parents and members of the community.
“Community schools are operated on four essential pillars which are integrated student services, family and community engagement, extended learning time opportunities, and collaborative leadership,” said Bentancourt, explaining the unique model.
District officials are also focused on a holistic approach when it comes to students' physical and mental needs, both on and outside school grounds.
“It’s parents, families, and community members coming to the school in a way that addresses problems and having their voices and opinions listened to. So we share responsibilities when making decisions, so when there's a decision to be made they have as much say as the professionals who are responsible for this too,” said Betancourt.
In recent years, the Laton district has faced challenges involving low testing scores and lack of parent participation, but according to Bentancourt, the money from the Community School State Partnership Grant has the power to set the district in a new direction.
“We're entering this stage where our test scores require major improvement, and we believe that this could be our turning point where we could use these new resources to implement what is needed in collaboration with our parents, families, and community members,” said Bentancourt.
The money from the partnership grant will allow Laton Unified to hire team members to assist students and their families in new ways.
“Were hiring an intervention specialist, we have plans to bring on a school social worker, were also hiring additional community liaisons to grow our relationships with the community and individuals who may not be directly associated with the school district, we are also bringing on two new learning coordinators to grow and improve our test scores,” said Bentancourt.
Bentancourt is optimistic about the future and said she is excited to see the residents come together to support the needs of their students and the community as a whole.