Oklahoma will spend $15 million from its share of federal coronavirus relief funding toward establishing Community HOPE Centers across the state to help families in areas where schools are not open full time.
Gov. Kevin Stitt made the announcement Monday at Templo de Alabanza in Oklahoma City, which will be the site of the first Community HOPE Center.
Templo de Alabanza Operations Director Rachel Ramirez said as soon as she heard local schools wouldn’t bring students back until at least November, she knew something needed to be done.
“I knew that there was so many families, especially in my community, that were essential workers and who were going to need help, maybe can’t afford child care or the achievement gap is going to be even larger,” Ramirez said.
The state will work with existing organizations to open the Community HOPE Centers, which will offer kids access to mental health professionals, social workers, meals and the internet for distance learning programs Monday through Friday.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County CEO Teena Belcik said families need additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When kids returned for our limited summer program, what we discovered was a more profound academic gap than we had anticipated and, in some instances, cases of significant childhood trauma,” Belsic said.
The state hopes to set up 31 HOPE Centers and reach 4,000 kids by the end of the year.