The Community Schools program was introduced by the province of Saskatchewan in 1980. Community Schools were part of a strategy to address Aboriginal poverty and to provide enhanced educational opportunities for First Nation and Métis peoples. Other elements of the strategy included: teacher education (see Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program), curriculum development, teacher in-service, and equity programs. Initially, eleven elementary schools were designated in the core areas of Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert in the highest need areas of these cities according to Statistics Canada census data. The objective was to provide additional supports and opportunities to elementary schools, and to encourage communities and families to become more involved in their children’s education, helping them to stay in school and achieve success in life.
Throughout the 1980s and into the mid-1990s the Community Schools program experienced moderate growth and expansion. In 1996, a new policy framework, Building Communities of Hope, was released; it affirmed the comprehensive, holistic Community Schools model and philosophy, and resulted in the incremental expansion of schools designated as “Community Schools.” The Community Schools approach received affirmation with the 2001 Role of the School Task Force Report recommendation that all Saskatchewan schools should adopt the Community Schools philosophy. This led to a doubling of the number of Community Schools, and to enhanced community education funding to the Northern Community Schools program.
Designated Community Schools have continued to expand and comprise over 12% of the provincial schools in Saskatchewan. As of 2004, ninety-eight Community Schools have been established across the province. A number of additional school divisions and schools are adopting the Community Schools philosophy and choosing—without official designation or recognized funding from the province—to implement this model in their school community.