Steering through the COVID-19 crisis in Springfield

Back in March, when the dangerous spread of the coronavirus forced schools to close, the Springfield Public School system focused on human needs.

“We know that our schools are much more than education centers for our families. They provide important support and we know that closure will impact on our families,” the Springfield, Mass., public school website explained. 

“Springfield’s first priority was the safety and well-being of all our students and families,” Julie Donovan, Springfield’s City Connects Program Manager says. That meant focusing on the essential basics of food and housing and on keeping kids virtually connected to school.

So Springfield’s 28 City Connects Coordinators got to work. They reached out to families who weren’t responding to teachers, and they helped children living in homeless shelters get laptops and Internet hotspots.  Continue reading

Helping teachers who work in COVID-19’s shadow


During this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, we are honored to support our teachers and their important relationships with students and families. 

City Connects Coordinators have always played a critical role in supporting teachers — and they are continuing this work in the face of COVID-19. 

Teachers tell us they often feel the indirect emotional burden of students’ problems, from hunger, anxiety, and depression to homelessness and family stress.

Coordinators help by assessing students’ needs and addressing them with customized in-school and out-of-school resources. This frees teachers to feel supported and enables them to focus on teaching.  Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 5/4/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

COVID-19-related school closures could lead to lower student achievement.

Massachusetts is the first state to pilot new ways to assess student achievement.

With schools closed, some districts struggle to provide students with free or low-cost meals.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

Taking action in the time of Coronavirus

To meet the historic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, City Connects staff are rapidly translating the pillars of City Connects practice into systematic approaches that serve students and families and support teachers. 

“Many families of the students in our City Connects schools will be especially vulnerable to the worst effects of this crisis,” City Connects’ Executive Director Mary Walsh said last week. “For families whom we serve, this pandemic means unexpected unemployment, heightened food insecurity, lack of child care, and sudden loss of stability provided by the everyday routine of school.” 

To address these complex and layered disruptions, City Connects’ Program Managers and Coordinators are using existing and newly forged systemic approaches to better understand and respond to the comprehensive needs of each individual student both immediately and over the long term. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 3/23/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

As many of the articles listed below explain, the coronavirus is having a devastating impact on education, threatening students’ access to school meals, their ability to learn, and their connection to their school communities.

Massachusetts requires Boston Public Schools to make significant improvements.

Preteen years are critical for brain development.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 3/9/20

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

Sleep helps teens deal with stress — and discrimination.

The country needs more high-quality, early childhood data.

The number of homeless youth in Massachusetts soars.

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading

Finding reading resources that are just down the hall

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When Joy Richmond-Smith looked at the data she collects on all her school’s students, she saw that some young children were struggling with reading.
 

“They weren’t making progress in meeting the benchmarks,” Richmond-Smith says. She is the City Connects Coordinator at the Saltonstall School in Salem, Mass. “We have some in-school supports, but we’re also always thinking about ways to increase the ways that kids practice reading and creating more chances for them to be read to.” 

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The younger children were already getting extra reading support from specialists, but Richmond-Smith saw a way to add another support. She turned to some local readers: older students in her K-8 school who know first-hand that schoolwork can be hard.  Continue reading

Tapping data and community partners to help English Language Learners

In Massachusetts and Minnesota, City Connects staff are helping schools meet the needs of English Language Learners (ELL). 

“In Salem, the predominant language that’s spoken, other than English, is Spanish,” according to Ellen Wingard the City Connects Program Manager in Salem, Mass., where 31.2 percent of the district’s 3,620 students speak a first language that isn’t English, and 13.2 percent are ELL students.

“We also have a pretty large Portuguese speaking population and a growing Albanian population and some of our students speak Arabic.”

So, when Salem’s language acquisition teams meet monthly to review the needs and progress of ELL students, City Connects Coordinators are at the table. 

“The coordinators are prepared to talk about any mitigating factors for language development,” Wingard explains. “They share critical data about a student’s family, health, and social/emotional wellbeing.”  Continue reading