With the school buildings closed, it does not mean that our educational system is shut down. Our students are expected to attend school via remote learning on a regular basis. This has been a new challenge for our youth outreach staff at the Kane County Regional Office of Education. We have a total of seven youth outreach staff that work diligently to support students. Five youth outreach staff are dedicated to truancy services, one is a coordinator of alternative programs, and one that is a Liaison that supports McKinney-Vento/homeless unaccompanied youth.
Our youth outreach staff are working remotely to make personal contacts with students on their caseload and the school buildings that they are assigned to. Through phone calls, text messages, and emails the youth outreach truancy staff have made over 800 contacts with families in Kane County since March 30, 2020. They are ensuring that students have the resources that they need to be successful, that students are participating in remote learning, and completing assignments. The overarching goal is to ensure that there are no barriers to student success. Reliable internet access and interacting exclusively in an online educational environment are some of the challenges that our students have experienced. The youth outreach team is meeting on a bi-weekly basis to go over any changes and current happenings from ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) regarding remote learning and how their programs are being affected. These meetings allow for collaboration of our staff members to share how they’ve dealt with their troubles and how they have overcome them.
One of the primary tasks is making sure that the students have basic needs such as food and shelter. The youth outreach staff are knowledgeable of the meal programs offered by the schools and in the community and share that information with the families. With the loss of income, some of our students are struggling with maintaining a stable home in which to live because of affordable housing issues. Patricia Dal Santo, Regional Superintendent of Schools stated that “we are promoting the usage of 2-1-1 to our caseload students and families during this difficult time as we are concerned about the mental and physical safety of the students”.
One of our youth outreach staff, Kari, was in contact with a family at the Hesed House
the second largest homeless shelter in the State of Illinois, and the largest shelter outside of the city of Chicago, that had concerns about meals and how money would be made available to the shelter. Kari worked with the Director of the Hesed House in getting information from the state and reiterated to the family that they would be taken care of. These stories are just one of the many that our staff work with on a daily basis. We thank them for their work day in and day out!