Gainesville school officials have worked for the past several months to begin implementing services for students and their families that could include things like a food pantry and increased mental health services in schools.
Now, the Georgia Department of Education has announced it is providing more than $1 million to help school districts like Gainesville to create “wraparound” centers to deliver these kinds of services.
“Our job, and our responsibility to students, doesn’t end when the school bell rings,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a press release. “These wraparound centers will provide the support kids need to be ready to learn. They’ll begin to address the barriers to learning that are in place for so many of our students.”
The centers are envisioned to offer students access to community resources like clothing closets; additional tutoring and academic support; work-based learning initiatives; and other career development initiatives like learning interview skills and money management.
The state funding will be used to hire regional wraparound coordinators in each of Georgia’s Regional Education Service Agencies.
“We are a member of Pioneer RESA and they will be filling the position to support districts,” Gainesville Superintendent Jeremy Williams said.
The Hall County School System is also a Pioneer RESA member.
Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said “wraparound” is a new label on an old concept that school officials have been working to implement for years.
“We have to do more than teach students to read and write,” he added.
Several Hall County schools have mental health counselors on site as part a program with Avita Community Partners, and other schools house things like food pantries and clothing closets.
Adding more services in a one-stop-shop location at schools will take more funding, Schofield said.
For Gainesville, other details remain to be worked out.
“We do not yet know how the role will be structured to provide support throughout RESA or Gainesville City,” Williams said.
But the funding corresponds with Gainesville’s plans to provide more support for social workers in schools, and state officials plan to scale up the initial wraparound pilot program to more schools in the coming years.
The focus on wraparound services is a “response to the growing need to address non-academic barriers to student learning, and to a body of research that shows students are better able to learn and achieve when those barriers are removed,” according to the state department’s press release.
The state is also providing funding for educational technology services; mathematics mentors; English language arts specialists; and supports for students with disabilities.
Marietta High School has been looked upon as a model for local school officials interested in how wraparound services can mitigate the challenges students face outside of school.
Deputy Superintendent Sarah Bell told The Times in March that while the Marietta model is a “jumping off point,” the school system plans to “develop our own personalized programs.”
Gainesville Middle School resource fair
What: Community resource fair for students and families
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 3
Where: Gainesville Middle School, 1581 Community Way
More info: Gainesville Middle Assistant Principal Faith Simpson, firstname.lastname@example.org