Fordham’s Community Schools Technical Assistance Center (CS-TAC) has been tasked with distributing $1.25 million from the state education department to community-based organizations across New York City and Long Island to help local families recover from the pandemic.  

“That fact that the New York State Department of Education selected the Community Schools Technical Assistance Centers to coordinate and implement the CARES Act funding is recognition of the work the statewide centers are doing,” said Anita Vazquez Batisti, Ph.D., associate dean for educational partnerships and the executive director of the Graduate School of Education’s Center for Educational Partnerships, which is responsible for CS-TAC. “We welcome the opportunity to distribute this much-needed funding.” 

Fordham CS-TAC is one of three state-funded centers across New York that support community schools in a specific region; Fordham’s center has been responsible for more than 250 community schools across New York City’s five boroughs since the center was founded in 2018. 

Last spring, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide quick and direct economic assistance for American employees, families, businesses, and industries. A portion of the federal funds allocated to New York were given to two of the state’s CS-TACs, which are now responsible for distributing them to areas that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.  

There are two phases for this 18-month initiative. In a few weeks, Fordham CS-TAC will invite community-based and faith-based organizations across New York City and on Long Island to apply for state CARES funds—which are separate from the city’s CARES funds—in grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000; grants will be awarded in May or June. 

“Those organizations will be doing everything from providing mental health support to resolving food insecurity—all the different things that families are struggling with now,” said Kevin Coyne, Fordham’s CS-TAC director. “Ultimately, our goal is to connect schools and districts to organizations that already exist in their community so that this initiative can be sustainable.” 

This fall, Fordham CS-TAC will begin the second phase: professional development workshops that train teachers and staff on how to incorporate social and emotional learning into their lessons—and in turn, teach those strategies to their students. To create more inclusive workshops, Fordham CS-TAC will collaborate with professionals in special education, bilingual education, and family engagement. 

“There’s an urgent need to provide not only monetary and physical help, but also the ability to process the trauma that they’ve been experiencing,” Coyne said. “If we want our kids to return to school and be successful, we need to make sure that we’ve met their physical and emotional needs.”

Coyne said he hopes the $1.25 million in CARES funds will be put to good use. 

“It seems like a huge grant when you hear the number, but we’re going up against really significant headwinds in terms of hardship,” Coyne said. “The hope is that these CARES funds will help to resolve some of the inequities and negative impacts from the pandemic.”