Family resource centers adapt to new challenges
Family resource and youth services centers are intended to reduce or remove non-academic barriers to learning faced by at-risk students, but the challenges are even greater during a time of pandemic.
In Jessamine County, however, the FRYSCs for East and West Jessamine middle schools have been adapting to new realities to help students and families.
“This is an exciting time for us,” Nicole Markle, FRYSC coordinator for West Jessamine, said as she and Lynn Byers, coordinator for East Middle. It’s an opportunity to work on “projects that impact not just our schools, but our families across the district,” she said.
One of the barriers to learning is good nutrition. In June, the FRYSCs, with the help of Lee Ann Conner, the school district’s food services director, as well as the Cooperative Extension Service, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and other community groups, gave away 845 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, and, in one location, 30 tomato plants to families of students and senior citizens.
Byers said the groups don’t have the capacity to continue to offer the produce this month, but they are working on writing a grant proposal to get more funding. It will cost an estimated $6,000 to buy more food through USDA, Byers said.
“We really want to collaborate to get more partners involved,” she said. “We feel like there’s an opportunity to bring some local gardeners and farmers and the Extension Office” in to offer more food, “but we’re just not there yet.”
School supplies are another need, and Markle is on a committee to work with local police on a Cram-the-Cruiser event one weekend in early August at the Nicholasville Walmart. They will need more supplies than usual.
“That’s going to be really important this year, because with COVID, there will be no sharing of supplies,” Markle said.
Personal protective equipment to keep kids safe is another concern.
“We need masks,” Byers said Thursday. “We just found out today that was going to be something we were going to need to do, so we need to get the word out.”
“At West Middle and East Middle, we have about a thousand students,” she said.
Some will be learning virtually, from home, but even if only half of the students are in classrooms, that’s a lot of masks. And kids being kids, she said, they are going to lose them or forget them at home.
She’s hoping some people in the community can sew masks and donate them to the centers.
Another way the FRYSCs (pronounced “friskies” by staff) are adjusting to life as COVID essential workers is by making Parent University classes virtual and providing online learning for all parents, not just those referred by the Department for Community Based Services.
Jessamine’s district contact, Beth Carpenter, has been working with local coordinators to “make our programs more relevant for these times,” Byers said.
Online classes offered include courses on stress and anxiety for COVID-19, cyber safety and how to get homework and other things done to prepare kids for the next day.
There are also grandparent support groups.
“The goal is helping families become more resilient in time and more self-sufficient,” Markle said.