CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia is the first state department of education to receive national certification as a licensed partner of Communities In Schools (CIS®). The announcement showcases the West Virginia Department of Education’s (WVDE’s) commitment to high standards for program implementation, data collection and fidelity to the CIS model.

Communities In Schools has supported children nationwide to achieve goals in school, in the workforce and in life for the past 45 years. In the Mountain State, the program has experienced exponential growth due, in large part, to the commitment of Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice. The Governor and First Lady started their CIS statewide initiative in three counties in 2018. Since that time, CIS has grown to 53 counties, 264 schools and impacts more than 100,000 students.

The strength of the program is the work of its 265 site coordinators based in schools around the state. These caring adults work in partnership with school staff to identify challenges students face in class or at home. They coordinate with community partners to bring outside resources inside schools. From addressing immediate needs like food or clothing to more complex challenges such as counseling and emotional support, the evidenced-based CIS model is adaptable to meet a child’s or a community’s unique needs.

“The journey toward achieving national certification as a Communities In Schools partner embodies the vision both the Governor and I share for the future of West Virginia’s education system,” First Lady Justice said. “The expansion of CIS across 53 counties and 260 schools, impacting over 100,000 students, is a testament to our relentless pursuit of ensuring every child’s pathway to success. The impact of Communities In Schools on the lives of our children in West Virginia is immeasurable. The stories of transformation spearheaded by our site coordinators underscore the profound difference this program makes in the lives of our most precious resource, our children.”

“We know that teachers and schools cannot support children alone,” State Superintendent of Schools Michele L. Blatt said. “CIS is that critical ingredient that connects students and families to life-changing resources. With many of the pillars of stability removed from our communities, CIS site coordinators step in and fill a void with compassion, expertise and the ability to draw upon a network of support. As a result, children remain in school and thrive because there is a connected community that cares for them.”

One of the hallmark initiatives of CIS in West Virginia is the Friends with Paws program, which provides highly-trained therapy dogs to schools within CIS counties, particularly those affected by poverty, substance misuse or other at-risk situations. These therapy dogs offer a nurturing outlet for students to address trauma and other social-emotional issues, with 17 dogs placed across the state since April 2022.

To learn more about Communities In Schools, visit its website.

For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or

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