Coronavirus: Lawndale teachers raise money for students’ families

A small group of staff at a Lawndale high school is fundraising to support their students’ families during the coronavirus crisis.

Connie Lau, ethnic studies teacher at Environmental Charter High School, and nine other teachers, counselors and an assistant principal at the school have raised about $9,000, Lau said by phone Friday, April 17. The staffers set up the ECHS COVID-19 Relief Fund through GoFundMe and Lau’s Cash App to help families with rent, food, supplies and any other basic needs.

“It’s not sponsored by the school at all,” Lau said.

While high school has responded to the crisis by distributing food, and providing access to internet and devices, Lau added, it’s not able to give families direct funding.

“A lot of parents are laid off or lost a lot of hours,” Lau said. “We wanted to respond as quick as possible.”

Of ECHS’ 500 students, about 415 of them qualify for free and reduced meals, Lau added.

Lau and her colleagues have given $100 each to 49 families in the past month, she said, and will distribute that sum to more households for at least another month. They doled out the first round March 31, right before rent was due for many families.

Their initial fundraising goal was $2,000, Lau said, but that quickly increased to $7,000 when support poured in.

Every two weeks, ECHS families can nominate themselves to be one of 20 to receive the funding, Lau said. They just have to share how they’re affected by the crisis and how they will use the money, she added.

The relief fund’s facilitators are prioritizing families with bigger households, ones with single or no current income, those who don’t qualify for stimulus checks, and those who cannot apply for unemployment or disability insurance because of immigration status, Lau said.

They’re also thinking about how to allocate more money to specific families with increased needs, she added.

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