Frisco ISD is using federal coronavirus relief funds to provide additional support to students
and families in need.
The District hired 10 school support specialists in the 2021-22 school year to help ensure students’ basic needs are met, allowing them to focus on learning in the classroom.
School support specialists help students, families and staff dealing with a wide range of life circumstances. That could include addressing needs related to mental health, food insecurity, medical and legal services and much more.
Among the many students served this school year:
A victim of human trafficking
A student with a parent hospitalized due to COVID-19
A student having suicidal thoughts
A student who lost their home in a fire
And hundreds more
“The need is there, and every day is something different,” said Stephanie Keeler, the student support specialist for the Heritage High School feeder pattern. “Our job is to help alleviate some of the barriers
that might prevent students from fulfilling their academic potential.”
From the start of the school year through Feb. 28, school support specialists responded to 1,444 referrals from campus counselors across the District.
After receiving a referral, school support specialists connect with a student’s family to learn more about their needs and how they can assist. This can include everything from sharing information and resources to helping families secure assistance
from community organizations or government agencies.
“When someone is in a survival or crisis mode, it can be very overwhelming,” said Audrey Thomas, school support specialist for the Independence High School feeder pattern. “So we just walk alongside them and ask what we can help with.
The more the relationship builds, the more they feel comfortable sharing.”
In Frisco ISD, school counselors have traditionally served as the link between struggling families and outside resources. But with limited time and more students and families in need, the District dedicated $2.1 million in federal COVID-19 relief to provide additional support.
School support specialists are able to take a personalized, hands-on approach to assisting families. That may mean multiple meetings, phone calls or even visits to a family’s home. The majority of school support specialists are licensed social workers
who are trained to follow up with families and provide ongoing support.
For instance, a family with a student in need of outside counseling services may struggle to find a practice that takes their insurance or is accepting new patients. School support specialists help them secure appointments or find low-cost or free services
and follow up to ensure students are getting the support that they need.
“Even calling for an appointment can be very intimidating,” Keeler said. “There are a lot of things to do and know, and we’re there to help guide them and make the experience less stressful.”
Support can take the form of helping families apply for government programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
It can also mean connecting at-risk students with donated bicycles to help them get to school on time. School support specialists will even shop for students in need at Frisco Threads,
the student clothes closet run by the Frisco ISD Council of PTAs, and deliver clothes to a family’s doorstep. They also work directly with school counselors to help address students’ academic and social-emotional needs.
“We are just one more group supporting our kids, because it literally does take a village,” Thomas said.
Families who would like to work with a school support specialist should first contact their student’s counselor. This graphic highlights the process.
The addition of school support specialists is just one initiative funded through allocations from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Frisco ISD has also invested in additional counseling services, academic recovery
and enrichment activities, behavior supports and more. Learn more about the District’s spending plans: