Helping Kids Focus on School Through the Kent School Services Network
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has a long-standing commitment to promoting quality public and private education for all people, students in pre-school to graduate students. With grants to teachers and schools and with college scholarships we annually invest more than a million dollars to ensure that students in Kent County have access to quality educational opportunities.
A new initiative funded by the Community Foundation will benefit students with health and human service support to help keep them focused on classroom learning. The new Kent School Services Network was launched just after Labor Day.
Kent School Services Network brings health and human services staff directly into eight pilot schools to help boost student attendance and achievement. The Network will place three new staff in each of the pilot schools:
- A Spectrum Health nurse
- A Department of Human Services worker
- A “Resource Connector”
This effort has been a work in progress since 2002, when the Grand Rapids Education Reform Initiative (ERI) launched its Straight A Plan for Education Reform. ERI is an independent group of private and public partners committed to making sure that all children in the City of Grand Rapids have access to a quality education.
“ERI has achieved a long-sought after goal of coordination among the myriad of services that support families and children within the walls of the school with a single point of contact,” said Diana R. Sieger, President of the Community Foundation. “What is so amazing about this is that it seems so logical . . .put the people who provide services close at hand to those who need them most. In a perfect world, it might have always been this way, but human services for children are provided by many, many wonderful organizations from across the community and bringing them together to discuss and then adopt a new model is a challenge! The new Kent School Services Network model required that people change how they worked, where they worked and even changed the expectations from the services they provided,” said Sieger.
The launch of the KSSN is a two-part story . . .not only is the level of collaboration unprecedented, so are our expectations. To highlight a few:
- We expect that teachers will have more time with kids – they won’t waste valuable instruction time trying to figure out who and what to do for kids with health or human service needs.
- We expect that parents will become more involved in the school and with their kids when essential services are within reach at their local schools.
- We expect that kids will be in school more days each year as plans are developed for curbing absences through the KSSN partners.
Collaborators on the project include: Kent County Health Department, the Kent County Department of Human services, Kent County, the Kent ISD, network 180, Spectrum Health’s Healthier Communities, Grand Rapids Education Reform Initiative, United Way and the Steelcase Foundation along with Grand Rapids Public Schools, Godfrey Lee and Comstock Park school districts. The schools that will have the services include: Comstock Park’s Pine Island Elementary, Godfrey Lee’s Early Childhood Center, and Grand Rapids Public School’s Alger Middle School, Burton Elementary/Middle School, Coit Creative Arts Academy, Harrison Park Elementary/Middle School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Academy and Sibley Elementary.
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation is pleased to support the Kent School Services Network and continue our tradition of investing in programs that make a difference in the lives of kids and families with a grant for $486,000.