School year start a stress point for families in transition

Even for those who are not in poverty, school year is already proving challenging for parents, students and teachers
Books fill a shelf at the Salvation Army's McKinnell House.
Books fill a shelf at the Salvation Army's McKinnell House.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 10:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Going back to school can be exciting, exhilarating and expensive, and for those families transitioning from homelessness or other vulnerable situations, the experience becomes that much more stressful. The lack of in-person classes further complicates the situation.

“It’s difficult as a parent to know,” said Jeneveva, a parent of three who’s living at the Salvation Army’s McKinnell House for the time being. “My eldest son, he’s going into advanced fourth grade -- bright child -- and needs extra, one-on-one or advanced classes.

“And it costs a lot when you think about it,” she said. “The cost to clothe one child? And then three more, two more, and they constantly grow.”

Jeneveva has been at McKinnell House for a couple of months. She said trying to figure out how she will school three kids this year is more stressful than ever.

“My children all really love school. And when they keep asking about school to go back, I can’t give them an answer,” she said. “And I tell them about COVID, and they say, ‘Oh, I see, I don’t want to get sick...’ It’s been a struggle, that’s for sure.”

Providers similar to Salvation Army, however, are helping families like hers. The staff at McKinnell House said the plan so far is to have instructors rotate in to help teach kids in a designated classroom each day, with hours of availability so that kids can get some extra help.

“Especially in these times, we need to help make their life and their effort to get some sustainability,” said the Salvation Army’s Capt. Peter Pemberton. “We need to do all we can to create opportunities for them, to alleviate strains and stresses so that they can focus on those important things.”

Trevor Storrs of Alaska Children’s Trust said it’s important that people recognize the privilege of many of the people making big decisions about schooling.

“Many of us who are making some of these decisions are people with certain levels of privilege,” he said, “and access to resources that seem very common and normal, understanding that that doesn’t exist for many families.”

To help the Salvation Army and McKinnell House, click here. The group said that as of this week, there’s an especially great need for towels and bed linens.

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