It’s back to school time! Kids all over the area have been picking out new backpacks, checking school supply lists, getting new shoes, whatever it takes to get ready for another year.

August can be a stressful month for low income families who may not have the resources to pay for those school supplies. Parents may not know what to do with their children while they are working if their schedules don’t mesh with the school system. They may not understand whether their children qualify for free or reduced breakfast or lunch. For the next few weeks we will be looking at some of the programs that provide assistance to school children.

United Way runs a “Stuff the Bus” program every summer. People in the community are encouraged to drop off school supplies for low-income children. Because of COVID-19, this year’s program requested only monetary donations, due to disinfection requirements of the supplies at every stage. Notebooks, pens, pencils, crayon, calculators, etc, are purchased with these funds. All Stuff the Bus donations were delivered to the school to purchase school supplies. Families needing assistance with school supplies should contact the school their child attends and inquire about Stuff the Bus school supplies.

Alliance Public Schools (APS) distributes supplies from Stuff the Bus through the school counselor if the family cannot afford to purchase everything on their teacher’s list. Teachers may also reach out to the counselor when they are aware of students who don’t have required materials.

Hemingford Public Schools also posts a list of school supplies for each elementary grade. If the student/parent cannot or chooses to not provide those supplies, they will be furnished by the school district or from United Way’s Stuff the Bus resources.

Because of COVID-19, several families have opted for online education. APS is working with families to provide computers for those students who are attending classes virtually. Internet providers have been offering packages to offer discounted and sometimes free services to households with students.

Parents are asked to not drop off their children at any of the schools in the county until 7:45. The Alliance and Hemingford Public Schools, however, have a breakfast program, and participating students may come in after 7:25 at each building.

Parents who are still at work when the school day ends are encouraged to check into the Alliance Recreation Center (ARC) AfterSchool Program, where their children are involved in supervised activities from the end of the school day until 5:30. The ARC also has full-day programs for kids when school is not in session.

Alliance Public Schools buses participating K-5th grade students. Students from Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran School are walked over to the ARC, and St Agnes students are dropped off by a parent/caregiver.

When they get to the ARC, they receive a snack, homework help, and participate in games and crafts. The ARC has a staff person in charge of the program, and RSVP volunteers are present every day to work with the kids. There is a fee to participate; however, scholarships are available to low-income families. Contact the Alliance Recreation Center at 308-762-2201 for more information, go to the website: www.alliancereccenter.com/arcafterschool, or drop by and ask for an application. About thirty students participated last year. Fifty participated in the ARC summer camp, which is an extension of ARC AfterSchool.

The greatest benefit schools offer to low income families is participation in the USDA National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, with free and reduced meals for qualifying households. Next week’s column will focus on these programs. If your family needs assistance, be sure to ask for the help that is available to you.

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