Frayser school district helping families beyond the classroom

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 06, 2020 9:08 AM CT | Published: May 06, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Currently unemployed and looking for critical resources to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, parent LeQuita Bean found a helping hand from her children’s school district.

Bean was furloughed from her job as executive housekeeper at an Olive Branch hotel until at least early June. She has three children, two of whom attend Humes Middle School in North Memphis.

“The last few months have been really hard,” Bean said. “The kids got off for spring break and never went back to school. We have problems with babysitting. Didn’t know if our kids were going to get educated or pass to the next grade. No income coming in. So how are your bills going to get paid if you can’t go work and acquire income?”

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Frayser Community Schools recently launched its “Family Wellness Check” program. The goal is for FCS staff to weekly remain in touch with students and families like Bean’s while connecting them with resources such as food to help them through the pandemic.

With the program’s help, Bean has found online links to food banks, gotten her utilities bill paid and information on finding cleaning supplies when stores in her area were low.

“There are people out there willing to help you in any way possible,” Bean said. “They let us know we are not alone in this.”

The charter-operated district has made about 1,100 calls to families at its three schools since the program started, said Theodore King, FCS community engagement coordinator.

“It’s also just to let them know that we’re thinking about them and that we love, respect and honor them as well,” King said.

FCS includes Martin Luther King College Prep High School, Westside Middle School and Humes Middle School. FCS has a total enrollment of about 1,200 students and is operated by the state’s Achievement School District.

FCS has long argued it is more than a charter operator as it serves students beyond the classroom in an economically distressed neighborhood.

The median household income in the 38127 ZIP code, predominantly Frayser, is $27,589, according to U.S. Census data. MLK Prep and Westside are in the 38127 ZIP code.

Humes is located in the 38107 ZIP with a median household income of $26,390. Both ZIP codes median incomes are nearly half of Shelby County’s median household income ($49,782).

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The most common request from families is where to get food, King said. They are recommended to visit Mid-South Food Bank mobile pantry sites and the Neighborhood Christian Center, which also has a meal distribution program based in North Memphis.

“We have a lot of community partners that are providing a lot of resources,” King said.

On the wellness check program, the staff at the three charter-operated schools is responsible for calling a certain amount of families each week. To maintain consistency, each staff member calls the same families.

<strong>Whitney Nelson</strong>

Whitney Nelson

Whitney Nelson is an office manager at MLK Prep. She said calling MLK students and families has restored a sort of “normalcy” during the pandemic.

“A lot of them have been very appreciative …. They’re really looking to us for guidance,” Nelson said. “It’s uplifting and keeps a sense of normalcy as far as schools goes.”

Despite the uncertainty associated with the virus, FCS is paying all of its employee full salary and has not laid any staff since schools closed in early March. Gov. Bill Lee recommended the closure of physical school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic school year in hopes of limiting the spread of coronavirus.

The challenges Bean faces now and, in the future, will not easily subside. She’s still waiting to hear back on her unemployment claim with the state, for one, but with FCS it makes it a little easier.

“I’m really glad my kids attend that school,” Bean said. “A lot of people work for money. These people really care about our kids, and they want to see them succeed in life. They want to see us as parents in life succeed as well.”

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Frayser Community Schools Humes Middle School COVID-19 Neighborhoods Frayser
Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf covers Bartlett and North Memphis neighborhoods for The Daily Memphian. He also analyzes COVID-19 data each week. Omer is a former Jackson Sun reporter and University of Memphis graduate.


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