Carney announces initiative to help needy students

 

DOVER — Officials on Thursday announced an effort to provide essentials to students at 45 schools around the state, including nine in Kent County.

The product of a partnership with nonprofits and businesses, the initiative is aimed at helping children “realize their full potential,” Gov. John Carney said. In order for students to succeed, they have to be in a position where they can learn, and with 37 percent of the state’s students coming from low-income households, that’s difficult.

The Basic Needs Closet plan hopes to counteract that by giving children access to necessities like soap, clothes and pencils for free. Each of the 45 schools designated “high-needs” by the governor’s office will have closets stocked with items for students.

Accompanied by education officials and the leader of the nonprofit First Book, Gov. Carney visited one elementary school in every county Thursday to announce the drive.

In Kent County, the delegation stopped by Towne Point Elementary School, where it happened to be the first day of school.

Pointing to several fighters soaring overhead in preparation for the weekend’s Air Force Thunderbirds show at the Dover Air Force Base, Gov. Carney said he could not “resist the metaphor with what we try to do with our kids — make them fly as high as they can.”

Towne Point Elementary principal Toriano Giddens noted many people do not have to worry about having access to simple things like school supplies, but some are often limited because they do not have financial security.

John Carney

“We are fortunate to have a basic needs closet here at Towne Point,” Mr. Giddens said. “Things like food, clothing, toiletries, books and backpacks that many people take for granted are the same things that many of our kids don’t have the option of having.

“So, it’s rewarding to be in a position to instantaneously provide these services and items to our students in need, but more importantly, when a child’s basic needs are met, they can focus on learning and they can be engaged in school.”

Department of Education Associate Secretary Michael Rodriguez relayed a story of three siblings who attended Georgetown Elementary School but had frequent absences in the winter because their mother, a single parent, could not afford to buy them coats.

“Lo and behold, they made a 100 percent turnout” in their attendance after the school helped them obtain coats, Mr. Rodriguez said.

Among the businesses and nonprofit organizations that donated funding for the closets are Christiana Care, Bayhealth and EDiS. Working with First Book, Delaware bought the basic needs products at a discount.

The closets could not only make it easier for teachers to teach but also save them money: According to the National School Supply and Equipment Association, the average teacher nationwide spent $945 of his or her own money on classroom supplies and instructional materials in the 2012-2013 school year.

“I know that you as teachers for years have been selflessly supplying things that your students need,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said.

The schools with basic need closets in Kent County are Towne Point, W. Reily Brown Elementary School, South Dover Elementary School, East Dover Elementary School, Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Fairview Elementary School, Central Middle School, William Henry Middle School and Lake Forest South Elementary School.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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