“As we all know, for many young people, this past year has been the hardest of their lives.”
Students have endured everything from losing in-person contact with friends to falling into — or falling deeper into — poverty to the loss of loved ones who have died from Covid.
“So much has changed since all students were last in school full-time,” the Rennie Center adds. “Eight million people have slipped into poverty, and 14 percent of households with children are struggling with food insecurity. Meanwhile, mental health-related emergency department visits are up 24 percent for children and 31 percent for adolescents. We will be learning about the impact of COVID-19 on children for years to come. But what we know right now is that they need extra support.”
“Preschool shouldn’t be like this,” Erika Griffin says of the Early Learning Center in Salem, Mass., where children have their own desks and their own bins of toys that only they can play with – all to protect them from spreading COVID-19.
“When the kids need a break from sitting at their desks, the teachers put Hula Hoops on the ground six feet apart and each child sits in their hoop so they can play on the floor, just to give them a break from sitting at their desks. At the end of every day, those toys are sanitized. We work hard to come up with small, creative solutions, and the kids have been great with that.”
Griffin is both a City Connects Coordinator and a school adjustment counselor at the Early Learning Center, and she’s used to children sitting at large tables, socializing, and sharing toys.
But what Griffin’s work shows is that even during a global pandemic, City Connects continues to work in early education settings.
As we’ve blogged, the core of the City Connects practice remains the same, whether it’s implemented in preschools, elementary schools, high schools, or colleges. Coordinators conductwhole class reviews with teachers and in consultation with families to assess the strengths and needs of each and every child.Continue reading →
Two coordinators working together as a team. That’s what Brad Maloon and Mia Riccio do at Collins Middle School in Salem, Mass.
“Just envision the left side of the brain and the right side of the brain,” Maloon says of his partnership with Riccio. “Mia is extremely organized and a very good systems thinker. I’m more of a people person with connections. I grew up in Salem. I’m a Salem guy, so I have a lot of family connections. Mia keeps me on task while I use the creative side of my brain.”
“But it took time,” Riccio says of becoming a team. “My first year here, Brad had been at the school forever. I was just coming in, getting to know the school and the people and how things work. Brad was running around doing all this stuff, and I was wondering how I could help make things work.”
“I was able to help her with getting to know Salem. And she helped me with really learning the City Connects system.”
Riccio is more detail oriented. Maloon is more flexible. And they both have what both agree is “a really strong work ethic.”Continue reading →
In Salem, Mass., coping with COVID-19 and building greater racial equity is a community effort that relies in part on City Connects.
So far this fall, Salem Public Schools’ classes have all been remote, with some higher-needs children doing their remote learning in school buildings where they’re supervised by adults. But as Salem’s new Superintendent, Stephen Zrike,recently announced, the city plans to switch to a hybrid model later this month.
“I think the fact that all of our pre-K-to-eight schools have City Connects as their system of student support was really a boon for us during COVID,” Ellen Wingard, Salem’s City Connects Program Manager, says.
The priority for Wingard and the City Connects Coordinators she supervises has been meeting basic needs, connecting families to food and to help with housing. Wingard’s school and city colleagues have put together one-page resource sheets for coordinators and families so they can see what services are available.
In addition, as part of a new family intervention strategy, Salem Public Schools staff members, including teachers and paraprofessionals, have been gathering information on students’ needs by reaching out every week to ten families and asking five questions:Continue reading →