Following the welcomed addition of the district’s first social worker, leaders of the Newhall School District approved an agreement with K to College on Tuesday that will help school sites address the material needs of their transient and foster populations, which is a growing focus for school districts across the Santa Clarita Valley.
K to College, or K2C, is a nonprofit corporation that assists homeless and impoverished families as they work toward self-sufficiency, according to its website.
“Second to hunger, unmet material needs are one of the most immediate and impactful consequences of being poor,” the program’s website states. “A lack of access to basic needs items like diapers, hygiene supplies, school supplies and other goods creates barriers to health, education, childcare and employment for low-income families.”
This is why the Sulphur Springs Union School District hired a social worker this summer and is preparing to open a resource center. It’s also why K2C will provide free hygiene and school supply kits, as well as other materials that are pertinent to academic success of the Newhall School District students who are homeless or enrolled in the free or reduced-price meal programs.
“A lot of agencies are coming forward and providing these services at low or no cost to these students and families, which is great because we know our students who are foster youth usually come from low-income situations,” said Larry Brunson, Newhall School District director of student support services.
The city of Santa Clarita is trying to tackle the issues that surround their foster and homeless youth populations, so accepting the program’s proposal was pretty much a no-brainer, he added.
With the addition of the new social worker to the district this year, Brunson said the Newhall district will continue to focus on establishing programs that support a child’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.
“I‘ve told people for years — and this is my 20th year in the district — that academics and social-behavioral needs go hand-in-hand,” Brunson said. “If one is not met, then the other can’t be met, either.”
If children are coming to school hungry, then they’ll be solely focused on getting something to eat. It doesn’t matter how engaging a class is, Brunson said. It’s like taking your car in, he said. If you don’t address the problems that are wrong, then they become bigger issues.
“It’s the same with students when you don’t address their social and emotional needs,” he said. “Everything is interwoven, and when one area is out of whack then everything else is out of whack, as well.”
“There’s still people who don’t know the importance of a social worker or what he’ll be responsible for,” so district officials will use this first year to ensure that the proper systems and supports are in place, Brunson said. The district will also notify eligible families about the new programs available to them.
A number of students have already been identified as eligible for the K2C services, such as the transient and homeless populations at schools like McGrath and Newhall elementary schools, Brunson said.
“We have to walk side by side with (students) to make sure (they) have what they need,” he added. “Particularly for those families who don’t have access.”