“We try to make sure that all the barriers are removed so they can access their education,” Brown said. “We do everything we can to make sure they are fed, clothed and transported and have school supplies.”
District parents often have to decide whether to buy pencils and notebooks or keep the lights on, said Lori Dickinson, president of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The foundation distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in school supplies and underwrites the cost of arts and academic competitions for district students.
“If the kids don't have the basics to do their work, that impacts a teacher's ability to accomplish that high achievement in the classroom,” Dickinson said.
The district also partners with churches and other organizations that provide a variety of services, including medical care, food and clothing.
Taft and other district schools provide students with backpacks filled with food to take home on the weekends. Hungry students, however, can't always wait.
Shea Stark, a Taft coach and teacher, keeps a box of granola bars in his desk just in case. He recently shuttled a student from school to a shelter so he could play football, often stopping to buy him dinner.
“We're going to have kids that are hungry every single day,” he said. “Kids cannot be hungry in class and focus. It just doesn't happen.”
Dubuc, a former elementary school principal, is in her first year as an academic counselor at Taft. She spends much of her time listening to students share their fears and worries.
“As much as I want to support academics, and I do that, it's more important to me to help them out in dealing day to day and being OK knowing that going to go home to a certain situation,” she said. “I want to offer real advice that they can use to get past the crisis and be productive.”