The issue of how to best support students’ learning this coming school year is gripping communities across the country.
For many students and their families, the difficulties brought on by the pandemic have not subsided with time, especially in underinvested communities and communities of color. Even through the challenges of this crisis, school communities (virtual and in-person) are providing students with support, emotional and social connection, and the academic enrichment their growing minds need. But the obstacles are great.
The programs we support across the country are helping students and their families to navigate the uncertain landscape of this year’s back-to-school season. Many families will have to choose between sending their kids to school so they can put food on the table, or missing work to protect themselves and their children from the virus. With your help, our partners are responding to families’ needs in and outside of the clinic and are working hard to stay connected with families and students, linking them to mental and physical healthcare, guidance, and other support.
Here is a snapshot of the challenges facing families and children across the country, and how the programs we support are stepping up for them:
Many schools in Memphis are reopening for in-person classes, and staff members at our partner program, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, are providing vital support and guidance to both schools and students to help them return to school in the safest way possible.
- The program’s mobile medical clinic is continuing to provide primary care for thousands of students by visiting schools to do well-child check ups. But providers have also ramped up to more fully meet children’s mental health needs to address the trauma many have experienced.
- Le Bonheur participated in a task force of medical providers to create reopening guidelines for schools. The team also helped to create a video for kids about proper mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing. Providers will also begin fit-testing N-95 masks on nurses and other staff in schools so they are well protected.
The program we support in Orlando at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children has already seen students return to the classroom and is continuing to provide primary care and support in other essential ways.
- At a new school served by the clinic, they are working to advocate for many families who have recently arrived in the country and are facing cultural and language challenges that are interfering with their ability to navigate healthcare and education systems.
- Families with severely limited financial resources are more likely to send their children back to the classroom. This harsh reality raises concerns about how possible exposure in the classroom could harm children and families.
Central Mountain Region, Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, where our partner Salud Integral en la Montaña (SIM) serves communities in the central mountains, there has been an increase in coronavirus cases over the last few weeks. The staff at SIM have continued providing primary care as well as COVID-19 testing.
- While a return to virtual learning has begun, many students in the rural and under-resourced areas served by the clinic lack consistent access to technology, jeopardizing their ability to participate. Many students will have to go to public areas like libraries, which are now closed, to take part in classes.
- If in-person classes begin, providers also worry about shortages of personal protective equipment, and about how students will maintain social distancing and other protective measures.
The clinics we support across the country are full of amazing providers who adapt to meet the needs of their patient families and children. And while these communities are facing many challenges right now, there is also hope.