Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Deer River Schools have been able to support their families with a variety of services, largely with the help of being a full service community school.
“A community school is a strategy that coordinates relationships and resources through a public school to accelerate equitable outcomes in health, education and employment,” an online community schools article stated. They also, “partner schools that partner stakeholders to create the conditions students need to thrive.”
Deanna Hron, Deer River Full Service Community Schools Coordinator, shared she was recently part of a conference call with other coordinators from all over the country.
“We were discussing how to get the word out about the great work of community schools,” Hron explained.
There was fear, however as an overall theme, with educators feeling like it would be bragging.
This is far from boasting.
The services full service community schools offer, need to be recognized.
Because all these resources, pooling together, is what is keeping schools going.
“This past year I have realized the value of relationships and when needed those relationships help assist in meeting the needs of our students and families,” Hron said. “In the middle of March when Governor Tim Walz announced the closing of school buildings, many of the partners reached out to offer support.”
For instance, the Deer River Community Healthcare Foundation provided lunch for school staff during the planning portion of distance learning.
“We have worked closely with the district for many years and understand the integral role our schools play in the lives of children, families and the community. This has become even more apparent during this time of crisis. We were honored to show our support by providing lunch for all staff and teachers in March as they prepared for distance learning,” shared Leah Oslin, Executive Director of the Deer River Community Healthcare Foundation. “Many of us have had a renewed appreciation for the importance of community and it is our privilege to continue our mission and work in the Deer River area to ensure we stay healthy and strong together.”
Second Harvest Food Bank offered support and Deer River schools received a donation for $2,000.
“We have been doing weekly food deliveries from the King Pantry to families that don’t have transportation,” Hron said. “We have also been able to work on identifying families that hadn’t reached out to the teachers or logged into technology. Home visits at a social appropriate distance have been happening to make sure that our families are being supported during this time.”
School staff has stepped up in many ways too, including donating food and toiletries.
“We have received specific requests from families and many of these requests have been filled by staff,” the full service community schools coordinator said. “These things include fishing poles, beds, and bikes to name a few things.”
The Grand Rapids Area Community Fund reached out to Deer River Schools early in March to remind them about the crisis fund and offered support.
“Deer River families have accessed the crisis fund to assist in paying rent, utilities and car repairs in the past several months,” she said.
The school has partnered with the University of Minnesota extension to provide seeds for students and families to grow squash as part of the One Vegetable, One Community project.
Lloyd’s Landscaping, a local business, provided seeds and soil for King Elementary families to learn about plants and planting.
“With the implementation of distance learning the district had to work with many partners to get technology out to families. With the technology, food and learning kit distribution there has been some triage to get things out to families,” she said. “The first layer is that families are able to pick up at the school, the second layer is that bus drivers take things out to designated sites in the community for pick up and the final layer is to deliver to homes where transportation is an issue.”
Community members, throughout the entire community, have stepped up and started delivering meals from the distribution sites because they knew families that were not able to get to the food distribution sites.
With Hron adding, “Elementary social workers are setting up virtual meetings with students” to keep the connection going.
All these resources, coming together, helps keep Deer River Schools serving their students and staff to the best of their ability.
Working together as a team, to support in times of great need.
More information about the coalition for community schools, can be found at http://www.communityschools.org/.