There’s a lot to look forward to with the 2021-2022 school year: With the success of the vaccination rollout and increased awareness of preventing the spread of COVID-19, we can expect bustling school hallways and full classrooms again soon. Still, school admins and teachers know that at-risk student populations—including those who deal with high mobility, low income, or mental health struggles—are on the rise.
Families are coping with a number of challenges in the wake of the pandemic, like increased stress, increased instances of suicidal ideation among children, homelessness, and joblessness, in addition to the loss or illness of family and community members. Studies have shown that the relationships educators have with their students can often be a lifeline during tough times, but schools across the country have faced decreased enrollment and an increasing number of unreachable students over the past year and a half.
However, this summer can be an opportunity to forge strong relationships with students and families who are struggling. Rather than expecting a “summer slide,” teachers, counselors, and administration can focus on building summer connections.
Here are some ways your organization can engage at-risk students and their families, even when school isn’t in session.
Text families for quick, frequent check-ins.
Families are often overburdened with emails, physical mail, or calls—but a text is a convenient and reliable way to keep tabs on how they’re doing. Even just a quick “hope you’re enjoying this lovely day” shows families and students that their teachers, counselors, and coaches care. It also reminds them that they have a support network no matter the time of year.
TIP: Use Remind to text students and families without sharing personal information. With true two-way texting, recipients can text you directly back, no different from how they’re already connecting with others.
Connect families with free and accessible resources.
Counselors can send links to apps like Calm or Headspace to students who struggle with their mental health. Administrations can connect families who are food insecure with local food banks. And, as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available for youth, school nurses can relay information about their safety and how to sign up to get them.
TIP: With organization-wide announcements, district and school officials can support students and families by sending resources via text—directly into their pockets, backpacks, and hands.
Keep up with high-mobility families.
Two-way texting with families can offer some stability through the summer, especially for those who live in unreliable situations and who may experience frequent upheaval. Not only can you let them know you’re in their corner and connect them with resources, but the front office doesn’t have to rely on landlines and addresses—which can change unexpectedly—to maintain those relationships.
TIP: With Remind, teachers and counselors can stay in touch digitally with families who use government-issued cell phones or don’t have internet access. In turn, families also have the ability to reach someone at their school via two-way texting, so they don’t need to worry about downloading apps or paying additional fees.
Support students’ transitions from one grade level to the next.
Students usually don’t know their 2021-2022 class schedules until late in the summer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start the school year confidently. Cohorts of at-risk students can work together with their 2020-2021 teachers to complete summer work or prepare for expectations at the next grade level. This way, their existing relationships can be leveraged toward new ones, allowing students to start strong with unfamiliar teachers.
Even if they have no formal expectations for summer academics, at-risk students can benefit from programs like Khan Academy and reading challenges at your local public library. Pizza Hut’s Book It! program, which rewards children for reading with free pizza, is back this summer, too.
TIP: Don’t forget that academically successful at-risk students can benefit from summer engagement, too. Teachers can use Remind to place students into mixed or similarly leveled study groups to complete summer packets and reading or to encourage them to keep their minds stimulated.
Connection, communication, and relationships are key to keeping children both mentally and physically present at school—this year more than ever. Approach the summer as a chance to grow those connections so at-risk students can start the school year knowing they’re seen and supported.
We’d love to hear the ways you’re keeping up with students this summer in your district, so share with us at @remindhq on Twitter. And, to learn more about how your district can use a Remind plan to stay connected year-round, click here.