Implications of the New “Poor”
Post written by Pam Capasso, Sara Gogel, Tracy Knight, and Janine Norris of Holly Glen Elementary School in Williamstown, N.J.
Holly Glen Elementary School serves approximately 580 students with one-third on free or reduced-price meals. Our school houses English language learners, students with autism, and students from low-income housing. In the past, Holly Glen comprised various socioeconomic levels ranging from upper class to lower income.
With recent redistricting, Holly Glen has seen a significant shift in socioeconomic levels. Today's economy has also brought about a change in our school climate. We have had to rethink the way we fund-raise, involve parents, and utilize community agencies. For example, many students lack dental coverage, so we invited a mobile dental service to come to the school. With parent permission, the service provided students with X-rays, cleanings, and sealants free of charge. This program was so successful that we have already confirmed the date for the next school year.
In the past, our Home and School Association had more parents involved and were able to fund-raise with success. Recently, we have seen a decline in parental involvement and participation in fund-raising events. The association now has fewer funds to help contribute to school resources (i.e., laptops, projection machines, teacher requests, assemblies, and the adopt-a-family program during holidays). In thinking of solutions, we reached out to local businesses for donations to make these projects sustainable. These local businesses were more than willing to help our school and are interested in helping in our future endeavors.
Currently students are coming to school hungry and are more vocal about their families' financial situations. School dress code has also become a concern (i.e., unkempt, incorrect sizes, and inappropriate seasonal wear) because of financial hardships. A community closet was created to help reduce the burden for some of these families. The free and reduced-price breakfast program has seen an increase in participation and students are encouraged to take advantage. Since our lunch provider does not work on shortened days, we are currently working on providing breakfast and lunch.
Despite the changes in our school climate, we are optimistic with the continued parent and student willingness to share what they can to those in need. Items were collected for our community pantry, the local animal shelter, and victims of Hurricane Sandy, and donations were made through our Penny Harvest collection to the Lupus Foundation and One Fund (to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombings).
Whole Child Network team and are committed to making the students at Holly Glen healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.