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When COVID-19 and Economic Fallout Put Millions of Kids in Unsafe Places, Communities In Schools Went In After Them

May 28, 2020

Communities In Schools found a way to address the growing needs of students and their families, while bringing solace and a safe space to students at home during this uncertain and isolating time. Reporter Bekah McNeel shared this story in a recent The 74 article.

As McNeel write, in some ways, Gladys Gradilla’s days are the same as they were two months ago, before COVID-19 shut down San Antonio. As the field manager for Communities In Schools, a national dropout prevention organization, in the South San Antonio Independent School District she’s hearing many of the same needs she’s been hearing for decades. Food. Hygiene products. Academic help. Social and emotional support.

Only now, Gradilla said, coronavirus has schools locked down, supply chains stretched thin, and families sheltering behind closed doors, and all of those things are harder to get. Harder to deliver.

Needs have multiplied over the months as well. Early in the shutdown, she and her team spend a lot of time helping parents troubleshoot “the basics of access” as their kids tried to log on for virtual classrooms and online assignments. Communities In Schools staff have taken their help on the road, printing out instructional packets provided by the district and delivering them to families, along with basic home goods. Some staff drove from store to store in search of the most hard-to-find items — milk, eggs, and toilet paper — using the time and gas they know their clients cannot afford to. Those early issues are starting to calm (the toilet paper is back in the aisles, and kids are getting the hang of online learning) but the economic impact of social distancing is taking its place as weeks without income turn into months. Kids need more, and staff still can’t deliver help in person.

For 40 years, Communities In Schools has used a case management approach to confront the numerous road blocks keeping vulnerable students from graduation. Hunger, homelessness, depression, and needs as unique as the 1.62 million students the organization serves yearly in roughly 2,500 schools across the country. Until this March, all of these services were provided from a common hub: the school.

Read more about how Communities In Schools is going beyond the schools walls to ensure the needs of the more vulnerable students and their families are met, click here