Helping homeless families in the shadow of COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed Boston’s schools, City Connects Coordinators rushed to meet urgent needs, connecting families to food, health care, and online learning technology. 

Then they started addressing homelessness. 

“A large portion of our student body and their families are in homeless shelters or they’re in overcrowded situations, living with other family members,” Jacob Nyklicek, the City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s William E. Russell Elementary School says. 

So Nyklicek is providing these families with basics and, when he can, offering housing opportunities. 

On the housing front, Nyklicek connects families to a new program created by the Boston Housing Authority and the Boston Public Schools (BPS) that’s using vouchers to provide housing for 1,000 BPS families. He can also submit applications for families who can’t apply online themselves because they don’t have access to computers. 

“That’s one of the best phone calls you can make,” Nyklicek says, “calling someone who needs housing and saying, we have an opportunity for you, because housing is one of those issues that is so difficult to get help with.”  Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 4/27/20

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Closed schools are creating trauma for students.

Coronavirus threatens states’ kindergarten progress.

Chicago is working hard to help homeless students during the coronavirus crisis.

To read more, click on the following links.

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Children and the impacts of COVID-19

As City Connects works through the coronavirus, we are acutely aware of the painful impact this moment in history is having on school children. 

“There are two big issues” Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects says, “the impact of COVID-19 on kids and the impact of the shutdown on kids.” 

Given the 24/7 news cycle, Walsh adds, children and families can be bombarded with necessary but nonetheless devastating news about the pandemic. 

“What we know, based on research, is that kids understand illness in very different ways, depending on their developmental stage. 

“Little kids think magically. How does the sun come up? Someone pushes it. Or: If you touch someone with COVID, you can die. They can worry for days about these things, even weeks. Older children, who are 10 to 12, can understand more. But they’re not going to reassure themselves by reflecting on the fact that we got through the 1918 flu pandemic.” 

That’s why it’s crucial to connect students to people and services. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 4/21/20

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Teens are worried about coronavirus, especially teens of color.

U.S. Department of Education releases coronavirus aid to K-12 schools.

School counseling and social-emotional learning go online.

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New brief: COVID-19 and the importance of comprehensive services

In the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, schools and community partners are mobilizing to help students with resources beyond academics.

“In every community, people are working in emergency conditions to address similar challenges. How do we get children food? How do we ensure everyone has access to technology needed for learning? How do we maintain students’ and families’ relationships with teachers and others who know and care about them? How can we best help our families help their children?” Joan Wasser Gish asks. She is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development’s Center for Optimized Student Support, the home of City Connects. 

“By synthesizing answers to these questions and adding the expertise of practitioners to that of policymakers and scientists, we hope to provide information that is useful and actionable,” Wasser Gish adds.

That’s why the Center is releasing a new policy brief. Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 4/13/20

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In the face of coronavirus, teachers feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Coronavirus aid might not prevent school funding cuts.

Some school districts are feeding more people than food banks.

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Minnesota meets coronavirus-generated needs

To cope with the effects of the coronavirus on students and families in Minnesota, City Connects Coordinators started with the basics: making sure families had access to food, housing, and emergency child care. 

Coordinators made phone calls and sent out surveys to assess needs. They worked with restaurants that were donating free lunches. They worked with Sheridan Story, a local nonprofit organization, that sends food home in backpacks. 

“At this point, all our families can access food,” Laurie Acker, Minnesota’s City Connects Program Manager, says. 

But that was just step one. 

Step two was becoming Internet-ready. Coordinators made sure that students had Internet access and laptops. That meant connecting families to free municipal WiFi or helping them sign up for low-cost plans so their children could participate in distance learning. One coordinator also set up a website with resources for families. Coordinators are also organizing social emotional skills groups online and creating related videos. And they are running Student Support Team meetings (where individual students’ needs are reviewed) online.  Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 4/6/20

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Teaching social-emotional skills when students are not in school.

Vermont says it will cover tuition for preschools to help them stay economically viable.

In the face of COVID-19, school counselors try to keep students connected to mental health services.

To read more, click on the following links.

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