Back to School in Shelter -

Friends & Neighbors

Back to School in Shelter

It’s that time of year again, and we are once again getting ready for the start of an unprecedented school year here at Housing Families First.

Last year, the start of the school year in shelter looked different from any other. The school year was starting virtually, with no in-school option. The vaccine seemed impossibly far off and this photo of the socially distanced school tables is still all too real for us. To understand the energy of the fall of 2020, you can watch HFF ED Beth Vann-Turnbull’s 2020 back-to-school message HERE.

Things are looking a little different in 2021. Schools are offering in-person classes. Our families are getting ready to send their kids back to school and you can feel the familiar back-to-school excitement in the air. Ashley Stupak, HFF Family Housing Case Manager, touches on the back-to-school vibe in the shelter: “The younger kids are so excited and have been stuffing their backpacks as full as they can get.” Excitement is not the only emotion we’re seeing in the shelter, however. Ashley goes on to say: “The parents I have spoken to are excited but nervous. A few parents have expressed COVID-19 exposure concerns about kids returning to school.” Her work right now is focused. “This week,” Ashley said, “meetings are focusing on making sure all school-aged kids are enrolled in school and making sure everyone has all the school supplies they need.” Our staff is working hard to ensure that the kids will be ready in two weeks when they walk back into the classroom and that their families will be as protected as possible. 

Earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Health came to HFF to conduct a COVID vaccination clinic for the families in shelter and any staff who had not already received the vaccination. We combined this with our school supply drive when the kids at Hilliard House could walk through and pick out their own school supplies. This event was hugely successful, with lots of families becoming safely vaccinated and kids smiling and cheerful with their new school supplies. We cannot express how happy and reenergized this made us, just when we needed it most.

The theme of the day is hope. There is a lot still to work through. We’re still looking COVID in the eye and it is still staring straight back at us. Kids 12 and under are still unable to be vaccinated. The Delta variant is posing a problem, especially for unvaccinated individuals. But, through it all, our kids are excited about going back to school. They are packing their backpacks with school supplies and getting ready to meet their teachers and classmates. Things are looking up, and for that, we’re grateful.

Good luck to all the kids out there getting ready to go back to school – some after being out of the classroom for a year and a half. We are excited for you and we have all the confidence in the world that you will do great things!