For More than 52 Million Students, School Doors are Locked–Possibly for the Rest of the School Year.
In high-need, low-income communities, the impact of school closures due to the coronavirus crisis goes far beyond lost learning. Many of the students in these communities relied on their schools as a source of daily meals. But for students and families who received additional services through Communities In Schools (CIS), their school buildings were also a vital link to a host of other non-academic supports:
Food. Clothing. Medical care. Mental health services.
School closures have not only cut off access to these important resources, they’re threatening to widen socioeconomic inequities and barriers to student success.
In the face of this crisis, Communities In Schools is going beyond school walls to meet students where they are and ensure that their basic needs don’t go unmet. Alongside school employees, church groups and community volunteers, our staff have become crisis responders, leading local efforts to support vulnerable students.
CIS is Mobilizing Communities to Meet Student Needs
Free or reduced-price breakfast and lunches served during school were often the only reliable meals that student received each day. In Georgia, our site coordinators are working with school districts to collect food donations, bag them and coordinate pick-ups at schools and alternative sites. To serve families without transportation, some affiliates are making home deliveries of meals. Many of these initiatives are being done in partnership with local pantries and food banks.
In Washington State, one of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus, our CIS staff are working hard to sustain the one-on-one relationships with their students. In the face of school closings, they have come up with innovative solutions. Those include creating pen pal programs to maintain relationships between students and their mentors and utilizing group meeting technologies to set up peer support groups for students who might be struggling emotionally.
A local eatery in Miami is following the lead of restaurants across the country in donating meals to schools for delivery to families. Communities In Schools of Miami has long understood that some student populations may be harder to reach, so they’ve arranged for a local auto dealership to deliver the meals to children at three migrant camps where children are taught by school staff and supported by CIS
CIS staff members are also trying to provide supports to parents who may be out of work because of businesses being closed. They are collecting and distributing hygiene products, cleaning supplies, diapers and other household products that families might not be able to afford during this time.
Students who are sheltering in their homes have lost a daily connection to their peers and school communities. CIS is equipping staff with tele-conference technologies and apps so they can reach out to students and create virtual communities of support.
It’s estimated that nearly 12 million children live in homes lacking a broadband connection. That digital divide is often pronounced in poor, rural communities. Our affiliates in South Carolina are dropping off education packets to families who don't have transportation and/or internet access for remote learning. Staff are also helping to secure financial assistance for prescriptions–in particular for those families who may be undocumented.
School pick up sites have become one-stop shops for students. Communities In Schools of Michigan is among affiliates across the country who are including books, learning materials and activities in distribution boxes. Our site coordinators are also using the interaction as an opportunity to sign up younger children for online libraries.
Our affiliates have always served as resource navigators in their communities. In the wake of school closings, those efforts have expanded with CIS affiliates helping connect families with the various academic, health and other relevant community resources provided by their local school district and our other non-profit partners.