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Homelessness Caused by Pandemic Job Losses Adds to Challenges for Some Owensboro Students

Owensboro Innovation Middle School

COVID-19 has caused many parents in Kentucky to lose their jobs or have their work hours cut back. The financial impact of the pandemic is adding homelessness to the challenge of virtual learning for some Owensboro students. 

Owensboro Innovation Middle School Youth Service Coordinator Amanda Hirtz said she’s working with three families who have suffered job losses during the pandemic, causing them to become homeless between March and August. 

Hirtz said students and families felt comfortable asking for help during these difficult times.

Before, when they were doing distance learning and attending all their classes virtually, the students reached out to the teachers, the teachers reached out to me, or the parents called asking if we can help with accommodations to provide a safe and quiet place for the students to attend their virtual classes,” said Hirtz.

She said those families whose job losses made it impossible for them to pay their rent had to move in with relatives, meaning students don’t have a quiet place for their virtual classes. 

“What we did here at Innovation Middle School was, we scheduled an appointment for those students to come in," said Hirtz. "They met with their teachers, either one-on-one, or in a spaced-out classroom, so that they could have a quiet space to watch their videos or get extra assistance on assignments.”

Hirtz said most students seem to be able to concentrate more on their studies since last week, when the district began having in-person classes, with students divided into A and B groups, and each group going two days a week on a hybrid schedule.

The A group began in-person classes on Oct. 12 and comes to school on Mondays and Tuesdays. Those in the B group attend in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, all students do class work at home. 

Hirtz said getting into a routine can help decrease the anxiety that often comes with any kind of change. 

"With any child, when you have a move, when you have a change, whether it's planned or unplanned, they may experience some heightened anxiety," said Hirtz. "I think now that school has started back in-person, it seems like they are able to concentrate more and some of the anxiety may not be as strong."

Hirtz said if a family is struggling in any way, they should contact the coordinator of the family resource center or the youth service center, which are in school districts across the state. 

"Notifying that coordinator will help the school help the students," said Hirtz.

"The students know that the Youth Service Center is available for them. They know that the guidance office is here and available for them," said Hirtz. "They know that if they need help, if they are worried, they can come to us at any time."

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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