Norwalk’s commitment to engagement, inclusion and access comes to life through the NPS Family Center, for both current families and those new to the city. Providing an easily accessible spot for family-facing school services, the NPS Family Center helps establish lasting relationships and meaningful family engagement throughout a student’s academic career.
Staffed by current NPS employees, the Center provides access to a wide variety of services for all families. Open year-round, the Center is a warm, friendly and welcoming environment, providing easy access to register students, get information, voice concerns and resolve issues. NPS’s special education ombudsperson, fluent in both English and Spanish, helps families access services and programs. By collaborating with other city agencies and community partners, the centralized location streamlines services for families across the city.
“One of our strategic priorities is to make sure that all families are informed, engaged and feel welcome in our schools,” said Dr. Alexandra Estrella, superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools. “Our research showed that both current families and those new to Norwalk find it challenging to access resources and information about all that NPS has to offer. As a single stop for district services needed most frequently, the NPS Family Center will provide better customer service and promote collaborative relationships with all our customers, including our most vulnerable families.”
The location will continue to be home to the Norwalk Next Steps program, a community-based life and job skills development program for 18-22-year-old students with cognitive and/or developmental disabilities. The Next Steps program has been located in the HSC building since 2020. Family Center personnel will work closely with Next Steps to identify work opportunities at the Center, giving students additional options for developing real life job skills.
The NPS Family Center has been established through funding provided by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III grant. Priorities identified under the grant by the Connecticut State Department of Education include direct engagement with families and the community, as well as creating opportunities to increase school and family connections.
Family centers are a standard feature to support family engagement in many high performing school districts.
NPS is partnering with the Human Services Council, which has provided services to Norwalk families and students for over 75 years. The Human Services Council operates the Robert E. Appleby School-Based Health Centers in Norwalk’s high schools and in three middle schools, providing free medical and behavioral healthcare for students. HSC also manages the Norwalk Mentor program, which matches students with adult volunteer mentors. Programs under the HSC umbrella also include the Children's Connection, substance abuse prevention, and supportive housing programs.
“We are delighted to welcome the NPS Family Center to our building,” said Anthony DiLauro, executive director of the Human Services Council. “The concept behind the NPS Family Center is a perfect fit with HSC’s vision to empower everyone to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Our staff looks forward to working alongside NPS to continue serving families and children in the Norwalk community.”
A Central Hub to Serve All Families
Norwalk Public Schools services over 11,500 students in 21 schools. Each year, nearly 2,100 new students enter NPS to start or continue their academic journey toward graduation, and ultimately, college and career. In a typical year, that number includes about 900 new Kindergarteners, as well as more than 450 multi-lingual learners who speak a language other than English at home.
The NPS Family Center consolidates existing roles and responsibilities for serving all these families into a single location. Families can visit the Center for help with enrolling students in schools, as well as to get more information about magnet schools and choice programs. The district’s Multilingual Learner Welcome Center is located on-site to facilitate registration, conduct language assessments and assist with class placements.
The NPS Transportation Office provides information about eligibility, routes and bus stops. Food Services helps parents enroll in free or reduced lunch programs or put money into a lunch account. The NPS Technology Depot will deploy laptops and Chromebooks to students and staff, and replace or repair devices. Parent and community volunteers can complete the registration process to volunteer in a school. NPS Health Services staff are available to discuss vaccination requirements, medication protocols and state-mandated health forms.
Professional development and family programs are offered at the center, on topics such as special education, family literacy, partnering with your child’s school for academic success, financial aid for college, and much more.