“Here at Hillcrest Elementary School we have over 40% of
our families who are homeless and about 90% of our families live under the poverty line. When we had the sudden school closure we were scrambling to provide books, school supplies, and other resources because we knew that many of our families would not have access to these things at home.” - Gabrielle, School Social Worker at Hillcrest Elementary
Why is it important to give a child a backpack filled with school supplies if they are going to be learning from home?
It’s important to understand the living conditions that many of the students we serve contend with every day. Typically, there are multiple families sharing a small space - often 8-10 people in a one—or if they’re lucky—two-bedroom apartment. There is no privacy and they might have just a bureau drawer or two to hold all their belongings. A backpack offers another means of personal storage and allows the student to keep their school supplies together and in order. It offers a sense of control and security.
Backpacks help retain the sense of normalcy for kids. Sheltering in place for 4 months now, perhaps kids are settling into learning from home. Summer will come and go and maybe they’ll return to school or maybe they’ll continue to learn at home. But a new backpack and school supplies symbolize a new start, a new year no matter where the learning takes place.
We are meeting families where they are. The pandemic has further exposed inequity in access to technology. But parents are making it work with the school supplies they have: they’re taking photos of their kids' homework and sending them to teachers. FGT saw firsthand how important these supplies are when we delivered School Supply kits to families through the Education Relief Fund program this spring.
School districts have taken ownership of technology to get students connected and they are not providing the other supplies or tools the children need to have at home. The Back-to-School Drive is standing in the gap by providing basic, but necessary supplies.