School bells will soon ring, and Ohio county Children Services agencies are doing what they can to make the transition back to classrooms a little easier for vulnerable children.
Some students will be going back to in-person learning for the first time in a year.
Sarah Newland, executive director of Allen County Children Services, explained fears remain about the spread of COVID, and parents’ financial circumstances may have changed.
“Some families do have financial stress with either being laid off, now trying to get back into work, getting their children back into traditional daycare settings,” Newland observed. “There could be some increased financial burdens.”
Gaja Karyala, educational programs director for Hamilton County Job and Family Services, said the pandemic created additional instability for children in foster care, who may already be at an educational disadvantage.
“They come in with a lot of educational deficits, and last year was really, really a rough year for any student,” Karyala contended. “And our students had a hard time.”
She pointed out they get educational support and extracurricular opportunities through the “Kids in School Rule” program, a collaboration with Cincinnati Public schools, the Legal Aid Society and Hamilton County Juvenile Court. Other county agencies are providing families with school supplies and clothing, offering a small cash benefit or connecting them to assistance programs and resources.
In Allen County, Newland noted they host a unique event to help with back-to-school needs.
“Our agency holds an ‘un-garage’ sale,” Newland explained. “Staff, as well as other community members, bring in items that we typically may have donated to different resources. Families come in, shop and take anything that they could need to prepare them for getting back to school.”
There are also efforts to help students adapt to in-person learning again. Karyala emphasized kids who attend Cincinnati Public Schools had an opportunity to be part of a “Summer Scholars” program.
“They had half-a-day academic and half-a-day enrichment activities. So, that was really a great way for the students to meet their peers, meet their teachers, get back into the school.”