As temperatures drop and a blizzard looms, the city announced Thursday that 13,000 young students will receive new winter jackets paid for by private donors.
The bulk of the coats will go to 32 elementary schools that are part of the city’s “community school” initiative, which seeks to boost attendance rates and test scores by targeting non-academic issues that can impede learning — anything from exposure to domestic violence to a lack of warm clothing. The schools serve a disproportionate share of low-income students and students who live in temporary housing, according to the city.
The roughly $650,000 gift was coordinated by the nonprofit Operation Warm and funded by several families’ charitable foundations and Morgan Stanley.
“As a result of this donation, we are removing a barrier to attendance during these cold months,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.
Twenty of the schools are also part of the city’s “Renewal” program for low-performing schools, which is designed to revamp those schools partly by converting them into community schools loaded with support services for students and families. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed spending $100 million to apply that model to struggling schools across the state.
Fariña has zeroed in on attendance at the 94 Renewal schools. After the first year of the nearly $400 million Renewal program, the single performance measure Fariña highlighted was a three-point reduction in the number of frequently absent students.
Across the city, attendance dips on snowy days. Every missed school day affects students’ grades and test scores, but the impact of frequent absences is twice as large for students from low-income families compared to their more affluent peers, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The partnership is the latest instance of philanthropy intersecting with the city’s plans to improve its struggling schools. Last summer, the fashionable eyewear company Warby Parker pledged to provide free eyeglasses to students at community schools.
The city has also funded a coordinator at each of the 130 community schools to cultivate and manage their partnerships with outside groups. That is enticing to education philanthropies that want to know that schools have the capacity to use the extra resources they provide, according to Chris Caruso, executive director of the education department’s community schools office.
“Philanthropies have been very interested in this work,” he said.
Karena Thompson, principal of P.S. 335 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, said the school was set to receive about 300 coats. She plans to distribute them to students who live in homeless shelters first, then to other needy students and their siblings.
“We’re truly grateful,” she said, “that we’re able to provide winter warmth.”