Home needs affect educational outcomes

CaptionCloseMastering reading, writing and arithmetic is not enough.Ensuring some students’ success is much more than just academics. It often requires a more holistic approach that includes addressing needs that extend far beyond the classroom.Sometimes...

Home needs affect educational outcomes



Mastering reading, writing and arithmetic is not enough.

Ensuring some students’ success is much more than just academics. It often requires a more holistic approach that includes addressing needs that extend far beyond the classroom.

Sometimes that includes providing them with clothes and food. In some school districts, it even means allowing access to washing machines so students have clean clothes.

Rising income inequality is creating need all around, sometimes in unexpected places. It would be easy for educators, school staff and volunteers who witness the problems firsthand to shrug them off as not their responsibility.

School days hardly seem long enough to address state education mandates, but that has not hindered local efforts to provide students with assistance beyond the classroom.

In the last 12 months, volunteers in the North East Independent School District have opened a food pantry at one of the high schools and started operating a clothes closet to serve the entire district.

NEISD is generally considered one of the wealthier school districts in Bexar County, but its student demographics tell a different story. The district has 66,700 students, and 46 percent of them qualify for free and reduced school lunches.

Churchill High School launched a food pantry on campus after Ashley Rice, an American history teacher, approached administrators about students who were coming to school hungry and having a difficult time learning.

School staff discussed the problem with the PTA and a plan came together quickly. In January 2016, the school opened a volunteer-operated food pantry in what used to be a dishwashing room off the cafeteria.

All the food is donated, and although a student needs to sign in to “shop” the shelves, there are no income limitations and no one is turned away, said Laura Talley, Churchill High School PTA president.

Most of the food goes home with students, but on occasion the customers are students who find themselves spending extra long days on campus. They pick up a granola bar to tide them over, Talley said.

Last month, the North East Independent School District PTA Council opened a clothes closet at 8758 Tesoro Drive in an old photo lab building across the parking lot from the NEISD Community Learning Center.

It, too, is run by volunteers and operates on donations of clothing and cash, said Cathy Reed, the PTA council’s clothes closet coordinator.

The idea came from a meeting of PTA organizations from across the state. They discussed what they were doing, said Jennifer Easley, president of the NEISD PTA Council, which is comprised of all the PTAs in the school district.

The clothes closet is open to families that receive vouchers from the counselors at a student’s school. At least one other San Antonio school district is considering a clothes closet of its own.

“Attendance rates is one of the issues we want to address,” Easley said. “Some children don’t attend school because they don’t have clothes. We hope this will help.”

School clothes is a big problem for some families. Educators are finding that the stigma of not having clean clothing for school often contributes to chronic absenteeism.

In 2015, Whirlpool launched its Care Counts program, which provided washing machines to schools with at-risk and low-income students after they were approached by Melody Gunn, a St. Louis principal, for a donation.

During visits to students’ homes, Gunn found that many of the families did not have washing machines in the home. The children were embarrassed to show up at school wearing dirty clothes, NPR reported.

Whirlpool donated washing machines to schools in St. Louis and Fairfax, California. The pilot program was a success its first year and is expanding. It is not in San Antonio, but it should be considering it’s proven track record.

Over 90 percent of the students who had access to the clean laundry improved their attendance by 6.2 days, according to the appliance manufacturer’s website.

That statistic underscores the importance of looking beyond the learning environment when we talk about leveling the playing field for all students.


Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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