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Digital signs connect schools with displaced students

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ROCKY MOUNT -— Williford Elementary School Principal Kendrick Alston lost contact with some students when the school switched to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. He wanted to make sure they’re OK. 

As a member of Mayor Sandy Roberson’s Transition Team’s School and Jobs Task Force, he brought this problem to the group’s attention seeking a solution.

“Teachers and administrators may not have been seeing their students on a daily basis,” Roberson said, “but that did not make the kids any less important to their schools. Dr. Alston wanted to ensure his students were getting their assignments and were safe and well.

“Due to the spread of COVID-19, many students with working parents relocated to family members’ homes for child care and had lost contact with the school. It was important that the children continued to learn and be challenged academically so they would be ready for the school’s eventual reopening. We brainstormed together, reached out to community leaders for ideas and got wonderful responses. What happened next was a great example of how a public-private partnership can get results.”

Barnhill Contracting Co. offered its digital traffic signs to relay the message for families to contact Williford School with updated contact information, and the Sun-Drop, Greater Joy and South Rocky Mount Community Center offered their sites to display the signs.

City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney offered city site locations for the signs, and Archie Jones, the city’s human relations director, worked with transition team leader Kevin Jones and Alston to communicate with neighborhood residents. 

After a few months, Alston was able to connect with 17 families.

“This was a tremendous help in assisting us with getting updated phone numbers and contact information,” Alston said.

It was such a successful project that Barnhill agreed to update sign messages to urge residents to sign up their children for kindergarten.

“We are happy to support our local students and the city of Rocky Mount’s School and Jobs Task Force,” said William Wilfong, a vice president at Barnhill.

For more information on the mayor’s transition team, visit www.sandyroberson.com.