Local Business Donates 1 Million Masks for Students in LA County Head Start
My daughter started at a new preschool this summer, just as programs reopened under strict safety protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19. It has been fascinating to see how she and her classmates have adapted to the new normal. I never expected to see four-year-old children wearing masks while they play, diligently washing their hands, and following all of the other new rules passed down from teachers. Kids are adaptable, but it has also been inspiring to see the ingenuity and commitment that preschool providers have demonstrated to remain open.
It has been equally inspiring to see how the greater Los Angeles community has galvanized to support schools. This fall, MRO Supply donated more than one million masks, designed and produced for young children, to LA County Head Start programs. MRO Supply has been operating in Los Angeles since 1898. They distribute hundreds of thousands of industrial products, and like many companies, are leveraging their operational capacity to produce needed personal protective equipment. The masks will be distributed and used every day to keep children and their families as safe as possible. This kind of partnership is vital. Our early education programs, and systems, can be adaptive, but they need resources to make necessary changes.
The new preschool public health protocols, including mask-wearing, new cleaning and hygiene guidance, and restrictions on the number of students per class, are necessary. They have also added material costs – in some cases as much as 47% to regular operational budgets. This makes the generosity of our community partners even more vital.
The significance of early childhood education was clear before the pandemic, but it has only become more important over the past months. Head Start is a resource for the families that have been hit hardest by Covid-19 in LA County. These are families who are low-income and overwhelmingly Black and Latinx. After initial closures, many early childhood centers have been able to reopen. This ensures vital access to nutrition, mitigates learning loss, and can also support young children through a potentially traumatic period of social isolation. In far too many cases this means the loss of loved ones.
We have also seen how important all schools are to the economy, but especially those serving students too young for distance learning. As all parents today can attest, without reliable childcare, the dual burden of performing as an employee and parent is nearly impossible. Ensuring that early childhood programs are open, and safely serving as many students as possible is paramount to a full and safe reopening for society at large.
Head Start, founded in 1965, is the federally funded early childhood education program, operating through local providers across the country. In addition to traditional preschool, it offers nutrition training, facilitates access to medical and dental services, and provides goal setting and tracking for families and other wraparound supports based on unique student and community needs. The LA County Office of Education (LACOE) administers the largest Head Start program in California, providing roughly 11,000 children, from birth to five, with early literacy support, healthy meals, and attentive, nurturing care across hundreds of locations each year.
The Greater LA Education Foundation was launched just before the pandemic changed everything. We have evolved our work to meet community needs, and help secure resources for programs, schools and districts across the county. This has included efforts to close the technology divide facing many students, as well as efforts to provide basic services like food and clothes to families that need help. We were honored to partner with LACOE Head Start and the team at MRO Supply to support this effort. However there remain major gaps in resources for students and families. And although there is promise of a vaccine, there is a long and complicated path to a post-COVID world. Please consider supporting our work, and the students and families of LA County by donating here.
Sam Gelinas, MPP
DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND EXTERNAL ENGAGEMENT
Sam Gelinas is the Director of Development and External Engagement at the Greater Los Angeles Education Foundation.
Previously, Sam was the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships at Educational Facilities Group, a Los Angeles based firm that led the development of permanent campuses for public schools in California. Prior to that Sam was the Chief Program Officer at the LA Promise Fund, where he oversaw a diverse portfolio of work that addressed issue areas including arts education, girls empowerment, career readiness, college access and success and family engagement. Sam started his career as a Special Education teacher in the Washington, D.C. Public Schools.
Sam received his BA in Sociology and Psychology from Pitzer College. He holds a master’s in education from George Washington University and a MPP from the University of Southern California.