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Laurel Elementary Math Night sees pluses and minuses | OLD TOWN

Students and teachers at Laurel Elementary School might be physically divided during virtual learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, but they aren’t letting it subtract from the fun they can have together.

The school hosted its Family Math Night on Jan. 13, and though the event had to be held via Zoom, it still added up to a success. About 45 families participated, said Melissa Blake, a second grade teacher at Laurel Elementary who coordinated it.

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A typical Family Math Night brings about 125 people to the school in the evening to give students and their parents a chance to solve problems together. This year, teachers used the event to educate parents about the various online tools and resources to help their children succeed in math during virtual schooling, Blake said.

“We wanted families to feel confident in online learning,” said Blake, a 20-year veteran teacher. “It can be a stressful time for a lot of our families. It’s all new, so any resources we could help provide to help them feel more confident and lessen their anxiety is what we try to do.”

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Educators shared with parents the importance of the family to math success and the need to integrate real-world math problems into daily activities like cooking. The event highlighted the need for math fluency, especially as students move into upper-level math, and offered strategies for parents to assist children in solving problems. The presentation also walked parents through the websites and resources that Laurel Elementary teachers are using to teach math during virtual schooling.

Blake worked on the event with fifth grade math teacher Jesus Ignacio and ESOL teacher Phillip Massay.

The staff, volunteers and donors at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services have also gone above and beyond during the pandemic. LARS, which assists struggling individuals and families in our community, has been working in overdrive since March.

Leah Paley, the executive director of Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, said the need to assist struggling individuals and families in the community has been “nonstop” since the pandemic began.
Leah Paley, the executive director of Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, said the need to assist struggling individuals and families in the community has been “nonstop” since the pandemic began. (Photo by Nate Pesce, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“It’s just been nonstop,” Executive Director Leah Paley said. An increased demand for services has been coupled with public health measures that have forced changes in how the office operates. Popular fundraisers like the Turkey Trot have had to be modified.

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The organization distributed 7,045 bags of food to families facing food insecurity and 22,000 diapers to about 250 babies in the area last year. LARS helped prevent more than 150 evictions in 2020 through rental assistance programs.

In December alone, some 884 bags of food were distributed, compared to 756 bags in December 2019. Requests for rental or mortgage assistance tripled between December 2019 and December 2020, rising from 11 requests to 33, with nearly $42,000 in assistance funds distributed. LARS had to add a case manager to help process all requests.

At the same time, Paley said, the response for help from the community has been strong.

“LARS has seen an increase in donations from individuals, foundations and government,” she said. Several donors forwarded their stimulus checks — including a few twice — to the group.

LARS recently concluded a One Laurel fundraiser selling T-shirts with the slogan, “Alone we are one, together we are Laurel.” Feedback to that campaign has been positive, and Paley said she expects the shirts will be offered again in the future.

“We’re very grateful to the community for recognizing the importance of our work and having faith and trust in our organization,” Paley said.

Those interested in making donations to LARS may do so online at laureladvocacy.org/donate.html.

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