Thursday, April 12, 2018

North Platte: Successful Schools Start with Engaged Communities


“Each of us has a gift to give,” panelist Kelley Hasenauer shared during the March News Channel Nebraska Community Live Forum event. “If each person in our community made a commitment to an hour a week to serve or give, we can all make a big difference.”

The Platte Valley Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner was one of six community members who participated in the premiere screening of our film, Standing Up to Poverty, and its panel discussion on the impact of poverty on North Platte families.

According to the Nebraska Department of Education, of the 4,200 students enrolled in the North Platte Public School District close to 50% qualify for free or reduced lunch, a federal indicator of poverty. Because of this, for North Platte and districts across the state, education extends far beyond the classroom walls.

Panelist Matt Irish, principal at Lincoln Elementary, explained the importance of making a child feel safe and meeting their basic needs. When a child doesn’t feel safe at school and their basic needs are not met, they are not going to be in a learning mindset. He stated, “We support these kids to make them feel safe. With our community partners, we try to meet the basic needs of our students so that they can be truly successful in school.”

With 12 different languages being spoken in their district, there can be a significant barrier between English Language Learners (ELL) and fully engaging and comprehend in the classroom experience. For many ELL students, there is a fear that comes with trying to learn a new language, culture, and school all at the same time. Aside from the ELL students, there is also a significant homelessness and poverty issue in North Platte. Brandy Buscher, student services coordinator, shared the ways in which the school district and community are rallying around these students to see them succeed.

North Platte public transportation provides bus passes to and from school for students that cannot find another way to school. There is also a food pantry available through the school that provides services to meet the basic needs of students so that they can focus on education and not the other issues that are going on in their lives. The school also provides on-site mental health services to assist students. Whole child development is also achieved through programs such as KIDS Klub and summer school. Carrie Lienemann, director of KIDS Klub, explained that the program exists to help, specifically, those students that have a gap of time after school, and during the summer when they have no parents at home.

For this program, there is no waitlist, all students have to do is enroll. At KIDS Klub, students are provided with homework assistance, a healthy snack, and opportunities to pursue further learning at the library or through other activities. For the past 16 years during the summer, a 40-day version of the program has been available to North Platte families. At summer KIDS Klub, students are bussed to many activities like horseback riding and free swimming lessons; all of these activities are made possible through a partnership with community members. 

During the discussion, the school district and community addressed the many ways they work together to close the achievement gap, ensure students receive services, and equip them to learn and succeed. A successful school truly does start with an engaged community, and North Platte is well on their way.

WATCH THE FORUM DISCUSSION

Tune in at 30:16 to catch the full discussion and read more from the North Platte Telegraph. This film series and its accompanying panel discussion are part of a monthly special Community Live Forum event between News Channel Nebraska and Nebraska Loves Public Schools.

Stay tuned for our April forum in York.