Outreach Team Helping Students, Families In SLC School District Meet Basic Needs

Dec 16, 2020, 6:52 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Remote learning and the pandemic have delivered serious blows to thousands of students in the Salt Lake School District.

School principals say in order to educate students, schools are going back to basics.

“If basic needs aren’t met, you’re not going to focus on education,” said Jill Baillie, Principal of Glendale Middle School.

That’s why on the school’s stage, a small team of outreach specialists is compiling care packages.

They stuff bags full of rice, beans, diapers and clothes. Then they shuttle them around to community members in need.

School staff members Jerly Alcala-Gomez and Elizabeth Montoya approach a house where the parents have Coronavirus.

“When we ask parents when they have Covid, what do they need? Thermometers, cleaning items, masks. We got them masks,” said Montoya.

They drop off the supplies and head to the next house where a student needs a new loaner computer in order to take part in remote school.

“Here’s your computer,” Alcala-Gomez tells him from the front yard.

They can’t address every need, but their mission is to remove the obstacles to learning. They’ve delivered everything from school desks to headphones to rent assistance.

Principal Baillie doubled down on outreach efforts in response to declining first quarter grades.

Half of her 800 students earned “F” or “incomplete” grades, and 115 of her students earned all “F” grades. That’s why she’s also started bringing in small groups of students for in-person learning, even though Salt Lake District remains entirely remote.

Staff members try to help meet social and emotional needs through the hip hop club and ukulele lessons. Other students get intensive math help. Since the outreach plan went into high gear, Baillie has seen growing numbers of “missing” kids engaging in school.

“Eighty-five kids have started attending in the past three weeks so the outreach team is working,” she said.

A growing number of parents believe the biggest obstacle to learning is that Salt Lake District simply won’t open to in-person learning. They’ve sued to open schools.

While these and other efforts move forward, outreach teams will continue working to meet the needs of families during the holidays.

They hope the connections will bring back students when on-line school resumes in the new year.

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