It’s September and going back to school – in-person or on Zoom – is an obstacle course of trying to keep students safe, keep them learning, and keep them connected to their school communities and to essential services and supports, as City Connects does.
“The earth is moving under everyone right now,” Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects says. “But what we’ve seen is the value of having the City Connects system. It creates a record for every child, so we know the kids, and we know what their strengths and needs are.”
Back in March, when the pandemic hit, City Connects moved its system of integrated student support online. City Connects’ Coordinators ran groups, sat in on classes, and reached out to families.
During late spring and summer, City Connects staff took stock and began preparing for the fall. Now, the City Connects system is stronger and more responsive to the pandemic’s demands and to the needs of students and families.
Here are some of the things City Connects has been learning and doing.
“We were able to more clearly see the impact of the services that kids had and then lost because of the pandemic,” Walsh says. “Especially services like dental vans that brought dental care right to schools. Even the New York Timesis reporting on this. There are some services we could move online, but we’re being reminded how important in-school services like dentistry are.”Continue reading →
COVID-19 has hit students, families, and schools hard. But City Connects is working hard to keep students connected to education and supportive services.
To share this story, Joan Wasser Gish, Ellen Wingard, and Stephanie Sanabria — joined Ben Forman on an episode of the Gateways podcast, presented by local nonprofit think tank, MassINC.
“It feels like in this moment when the disruption caused by COVID is making inequities so palpable, and is lifting the lid on how critical family circumstances really are to children’s readiness to engage in learning, and thrive and have choices in life, this kind of work is something that’s going to become more and more important.” Wasser Gish says. She’s the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Center for Optimized Student Support, which is the home of City Connects and part of the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College.
“In Salem, if you interviewed principals right now, they would tell you they wouldn’t have known what to do in their first few weeks of closures if they didn’t have their City Connects Coordinators at their virtual side to help them pivot and use the student support system that we had within the buildings [and shift them] to a virtual world,” Ellen Wingard, the City Connects Program Manager in Salem, Mass., says.
“[Because of] having the City Connects model, where we have this tiering system — we review every child in the fall — so we have insight as to who our children are, who our families are,” Stephanie Sanabria, a City Connects Coordinator in Springfield, Mass. says.
To hear the rest of the conversation, please listen to the podcast.
Students at the JPS Success Academy have the great opportunity to learn how to practice yoga with local teacher Kristina Benson! Such a wonderful way for students to learn relaxation techniques! #jpsnypic.twitter.com/dqb961v54y
City Connects has expanded. We’ve launched in the Success Academy, a trauma-informed school that’s part of the public school system in Jamestown, N.Y.
“Success Academy serves students in grades five through ten who have experienced some school avoidant behavior due to either trauma or mental health needs that have manifested as difficulties doing well in school,” Maureen Diehl, the City Connects Program Manager, explains.
“These students are invited – not required – to attend our unique program, which has smaller class sizes and staff who are there to focus on students’ social emotional and behavioral health.”
“The goal is to get students on the right track and help them move back to their home schools.”
The school, which opened last fall and serves 50 students, is part of School Superintendent Brett Apthorpe’s effort to “combat the losses district students were experiencing due to the 72 percent poverty rate and every day poor living standards,”the Jamestown Gazette reports, adding, “The District has an unacceptable absentee rate as well.”Continue reading →