“I got some Legos, books, and art paper,” said Pamela Mobley (pictured).
Mobley (pictured) and other parents picked up the supplies during a giveaway held Monday at Wexler-Grant School.
This was the third giveaway that Wexler has hosted to help families this remote-beginning school year. Over the course of the day, 30 parents came.
Mobley has three daughters who go to Wexler-Grant School: Trinity, who is in kindergarten, Milani, who is in 3rd grade, and Aniyah, who is in 5th grade. “Milani likes to draw just about anything,” added Mobley. Her daughters, she added, are going back to school when hybrid in-person/remote learning starts on on Nov. 9. “They miss school, and I think the school is taking enough precautions.”
“Last time, we had over 150 families come to pick up supplies,” reported Kim Wilson, the assistant principal. “That’s half of our school community.”
“We try to schedule the slots at different times, so parents can come based on their work schedules,” added Sondi Jackson, a speech pathologist at the school. As she spoke, a parent came in a blue suit. He received a bag of Legos, as well as two composition books.
“We try to focus on the whole child: giving art paper, musical instruments, and legos in addition to school supplies,” said Wilson.
A plethora of school supplies were available: math books, journals for writing, composition books, pencils, paper, crayons, Kajeet hot spots, and Scholastic books. The giveaway also included batteries for smoke detectors from the Jamie Lynn Sullivan Memorial Foundation.
Supply giveaways like these are one part of how teachers at Wexler-Grant have tried to keep in touch with students during remote learning.
Another way has been home visits. “We’re lucky in that we are a small school – about 345 students, and most live nearby,” said Wilson.
“Sometimes we knock on their doors if they’re not in class at 9, asking if they’re up,” said Wilson with a laugh.
“I’ve sat on a student’s porch and showed him how to log into his classroom. And Ms. Brown [the coordinator for family resources] helped a family install their Kajeet hotspot,” she said.
Besides home visits, there have been bonding activities. One fourth-grade teacher hosted a virtual movie night. “It was a rainy Wednesday night, and it was so cute. All the students came on with their popcorn,” Wilson said.
Over the day, many families came for supplies and Covid-19 advice.
One woman came to sign up her granddaughter, Mykara Walker, for virtual learning. (The grandmother declined to give her name.) “I heard it was the last day” to sign up to continue remote-only learning in November, she said.
Wilson and Jackson explained that she could fill out a form on the NPHS website, indicating her granddaughter’s learning status. Wilson then gave Walker’s grandmother her phone number, promising to help her fill out the form.
“While you’re here, would you like some school supplies?” asked Jackson. Walker’s grandmother left with math books, pencils, and more.
Walker, who is in eighth grade, later explained her decision to stay at home. “I want to go back to school, but my grandma is old,” she said. “So if she got sick, she’d probably die.” Walker’s grandmother added that she’d see how the first semester went before deciding whether to send Walker back to school.
Walker does not like online learning. “Sometimes the teacher goes too fast, and I can’t talk to them privately and ask for help like I used to,” she said. She added that she can easily forget to turn in assignments when everything is online.
Another parent who has decided to keep her kids at home is Mica Pickens. Pickens has two sons: Ja’Khey Epps and Dontae Epps, who are in 3rd and 6th grade, respectively. She came earlier Monday morning and received headphones, counting cubes for math problems, dry erase boards, among other supplies.
“They gave us a lot of supplies,” she said. “I’ve been a little nervous about going into stores with Covid. Here, I wasn’t around a lot of people and I could go right up to the door with my mask on. It’s way safer.”
Her children aren’t going back to hybrid school. “My mom is sick, plus I have a 2-year-old and a newborn baby,” said Pickens. “I’ve been watching the news, and Covid is spiking back up again. Plus, Dontae has asthma, so he’s more at risk, and he gets headaches from wearing a mask for a long time. I want him to stay at home, where he’s safe and doesn’t need a mask.”
Regardless of whether students stay at home or come to school, they’ll have access to school supplies.
“We’ll continue to do distribution days so our remote families have all the supplies they need,” said Wilson. Wexler-Grant is also providing free breakfasts and lunches to all New Haven Public School students.
“We’ve been intentional with our orders,” said Jackson. “We have enough materials for students both in school and at home.” This newfound access to supplies at home might be an unexpected positive, she added.
“You know, some students might have enough books now to build a whole library at home,” said Jackson. “That probably would not have happened if we hadn’t had to find a new solution with the pandemic.”