USD 501 helps families living at Topeka Rescue Mission succeed during remote learning

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A partnership between Topeka Public Schools and the Topeka Rescue Mission is getting students and families living at the Mission off to a great start this school year.

For more than 20 years USD 501 has offered its services to the mission, including setting up a wifi accessible classroom and after-school program.

This school year, they are expanding those services to make sure all students, regardless of their environment, can learn.

Dr. Joy Grimes, USD 501 Coordinator for Student Services said, “When you have students in transition there’s a lot of chaos in their lives and so we try to help streamline processes for them, so they don’t have a lot of hoops to jump through to get enrolled, to get their kids enrolled or to get education.”

This school year being remote, brought on new challenges that the district and the Mission worked together to face head on.

“This is really stressful for all families right now, especially for families who are in transition and who just have so many other things on their plate," said Quincy Elementary School Principal, Katie Sonderegger. "So, we go down there and we help the students get connected, make sure that they know how to access their educational activities and lessons and how to connect with their classmates and teachers.”

Since the shelter is not fully wifi accessible the district is providing hot spots to each family.

“At the Mission typically their wifi is in that TPS room, but for right now when they’re in their individual family units at the Hope Center, they can also be working on their education just as if they were at a home that had internet,” said Sonderegger.

USD 501 also created a new position. Dr. Jennifer Malone serves as the district’s Administrative Support Person and visits the Mission once a week to deliver school supplies and offer academic support.

“I just try to step in and make sure that the families have what they need and the students have what they need academically," said Dr. Malone.

If students are falling behind, the Mission’s Trauma Outreach Team Coordinator, Pat Mahoney, communicates with the district.

“I called them and said one of our students is struggling online, they immediately sent the interventionist and the social worker from Quincy over and now that student will be receiving tutoring," said Mahoney.

It’s a partnership both sides say they appreciate.

“It is a privilege and an honor to partner with the Mission in a way that brings a bit of light in a dark circumstance and allows them to be in a school family and continue as if their normal home experience is what it would normally be," said USD 501 Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson, "If we could just do that through the 6-8 hours they’re at school, that gives students a running start.”

Dr. Anderson also added when in-person learning resumes, they may continue some of these same services, such as the hot spots, to maintain equitable access for all 501 students.

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