Health Advice



Indiana school goes extra mile to help vulnerable kids weather pandemic

Giles Bruce, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

“We struggle with school anyway,” said his mom, Kathy Poff. “Then when this pandemic came along, it just knocked our feet out from under us.”

His grades plunged. He began to hate school, Poff said. He didn’t attend his daily video meetings with his teachers. His mother fought with him to complete his online assignments.

“I usually get pretty bored,” said Trea, whose long, straight hair sometimes falls over his eyes.

Poff found him a therapist he meets with once a week. She said his mood and academic productivity have improved. He wants to be a computer programmer and has been coding in his spare time lately. She also moved his computer into her bedroom so she could better monitor him and has started paying him to do his schoolwork.

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a 13-year-old going through this pandemic,” said Poff, 51, a single mother. “They’re going through changes anyway, adjusting to adolescence and figuring out who they are, and they don’t even have a social group to figure that out.”


Goulding, the math teacher, said she’s glad she and her co-workers can help provide stability and continuity during this trying period. One recent night, for example, she got a call from a truant boy’s grandmother, who said she was in poor health and raising him alone. The next day, the principal and social worker picked him up and drove him to school.

Still, Goulding lamented not seeing her most vulnerable students on the days when they are remote.

“How do I check on my kids? How do I make sure they’re eating? How do I make sure,” she paused to compose herself, her voice quavering, “they’re safe?

“You’re no longer thinking about, ‘How are they doing on their polynomials?’ You’re thinking about, you know, the reality of life.”

©2021 Kaiser Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.