A former locker room at West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey has been converted to a laundry room in an effort to improve student attendance during the 2018-19 school year. The principal obtained a $20,000 grant from utility company PSEG for the renovation, and went through Whirlpool's "Care Counts" program to secure washers and dryers, according to CBS News.
Lack of clean clothing due to not having access to laundry equipment had been the reason 85% of the mostly low-income students were absent between three and five days every month. Some were bullied over their unkempt appearance, both in person and on social media.
Hopes are high that the new space will succeed in reducing absenteeism. According to studies done by Whirlpool in districts where the company installed laundry equipment, about 90% of tracked students improved their attendance by six days.
Strategies for improving outcomes for students are often not directly related to their education. School leaders are seeking to support the whole student, and address all the reasons for a lack of success, even those that originate off of school property.
A community school, with strong community partnerships to tackle students' non-academic needs, can be the cornerstone of that goal. The community schools model helps districts in low-income communities reduce the toll that limited access to health services and enrichment opportunities takes on test scores and graduation rates. District leaders need to identify sustainable funding sources and smooth the way to strong, long-term partnerships with community agencies.
Crowdfunding can be a means of addressing the needs not covered by school funding and balancing the inequities that exist in access to extracurricular activities, enrichment programs, class trips or arts and music programs. Teachers are turning to it, especially on education-focused platforms, such as DonorsChoose.org and ClassWish.org, in increasing numbers. For instance, more than 76,000 projects await funding on DonorsChoose.org, a record for back-to-school season. What's even more telling, though, is that teachers are increasingly coming to Amazon Business, one of the suppliers affiliated with DonorsChoose, to request items like coats and basic hygiene products for students.