“We serve the same kids and families,” says City Manager Julie Underwood. “We are interdependent.”
Many Islanders know the city funds mental health counselors in public schools, but the city-school partnership runs deeper. The counselors’ work is backed and supervised by clinical staff at Youth and Family Services who work with any students and families needing additional support, whether it’s further counseling or legal help. The city also employs a full-time school resource officer in the Police Department to work directly in schools to support kids.
The city’s Development Services Group assigns senior-level, highly experienced staff to review MISD permit applications resulting in time and money savings for MISD. A year-long city collaboration with MISD recently rezoned all school properties to “Public Institution” and created new zoning standards around each school, providing nearby neighbors and the district with certainty regarding development, and facilitating more cost-efficient permit reviews and inspections.
Parks and Recreation has paid for new turf fields on school properties (over $2 million for South Mercer playfields and Islander Middle School fields). The city collects rental fees from third party users after school hours, with fees allocated towards field replacements.
The city also is paying to rehabilitate grass fields at four elementary schools and the high school. City fields and tennis courts are available at no charge to school sports teams, saving the School District approximately $20,000 annually. And the city’s “Safe Routes to School” program keeps trails maintained for students walking to school.
“Our partnership with MISD reaches into just about every city department,” Underwood said. “And the result is that our whole community benefits.”