NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — While schools are closed, thousands of students across Hampton Roads are getting their lessons online.

That includes students with the Head Start program, which provides early childhood education.

10 On Your Side spoke with Head Start Program Director Shikee Franklin, who says they have more than 1,200 students and they’re working to make sure their families get the resources they need.

“Head Start is critically important on a regular day. With this pandemic happening, we’re expecting it to cause more stress on our low-income families,” she said.

The Hampton Roads Community Action Program, which oversees Head Start, has 73 classes across Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Norfolk.

Franklin says 90 percent of their student population comes from low-income families.

“They’re already at a disadvantage, so we’re just trying to make sure we can access the resources we can to help support them and connect them to [those] resources,” she said.

Franklin says all staff are working 100-percent virtually and have uploaded educational packets online.

Family advocates are also working with families to assess what is needed to be successful while students are out of the classrooms.

Head Start is working to get technology available for families such as hotspots in communities where a number of students live and/or laptops and tablets, according to Franklin.

She says it’s important for the students to keep up with routines that go on during class.

“We know some parents are still having to go out and work. Sometimes it’s hard to keep structure and routine for our children, but [it] is important,” Franklin said.

Before the pandemic, Head Start routinely provided parents with tips on how to incorporate education at home, such as reading to students.

Franklin hopes parents will remember those tips.

But staff are also hoping to help with that. That’s why they’re asking for the community’s assistance to get access to the technology they need. It’s something that will help ease the burden for teachers.

Head Start says it is still recruiting and hiring teachers and is not laying off any of their current staff.

“I think the main thing at this point is to keep everyone calm and stress-free. We’re doing what we can but we want to look out for our staff so they have the flexibility to look out for themselves and their families.”

Franklin says Hampton Roads Community Action Program is still providing emergency services like domestic violence assistance, tax preparation, and mobile showering for the homeless.

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