SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – City and community leaders are discussing strengths and challenges within Springfield and Greene County.
This year marks the ninth community focus report.
As with previous reports, the 2019 review found some consistent strengths and challenges.
Improvements include Prop S which voters approved earlier this year, major redevelopment, especially on Commercial street and Galloway Village, and investments in trails and parks.
Red flags were also identified.
According to the report, poverty has worsened since 2004, the year of the first community focus report.
The number of children and youth experiencing homelessness is also increasing.
Meleah Spencer with The Kitchen, Inc. says her organization is seeing an increase in the number of families who are in need of their services.
“It could be a car breakdown, a major car repair and so then they can’t get to their job and then they lose their housing as well,” Spencer said. “It really is a variety of barriers that lead to homelessness but one thing remains is that we are consistent in providing that housing options to our families and looking for ways to make sure to get them onto success and remain stability-housed and also shorten that length of homelessness if at all possible for them.”
The Community Focus Report mentions gaps in kindergarten readiness, college readiness and graduation rates between students of color and white students.
“Our sites and our teachers are really looking at the individual student,” Shane Dublin, executive director of secondary learning with Springfield Public Schools said. “Individual student needs, what are their learning needs? What are their strengths? What are their gaps in learning? Then addressing those learning needs.”
Dublin says SPS is intentional in providing access to equal opportunities for all its students.
“Our African-American students had the highest growth just this last year in their perception of their relationships with teachers,” Dublin said. “Which when they have good relationships with teachers that certainly can affect academic achievement positively.”
According to the Community Focus Report, students who are academically successful are more likely to graduate from school and have stable employment later in life.
“We really want to train them on being post-secondary ready, college and career ready,” Dublin said. “And we do that by making sure they’re academically ready, making sure they’re an engaged citizen, they have the communication, collaboration, all those 21st-century skills.”
The report also revealed achievement gaps for students of poverty compared to their peers.
The non-profit, Rare Breed, says it works to helps these students.
“They don’t have to be homeless they could just be living in poverty and there are tons of resources there,” Spencer said. “Our case managers are working one-on-one with the youth that comes through those doors. They can get food there, and they can get food even for their family there to bring back to their home.”
Spencer says students can also take showers and use the on-site laundry room.
She says the center is very focus-driven.
“Maybe it is to study and learn some studying skills and we have volunteers coming in to help with those youth so they can do better in school, break that cycle of poverty,” Spencer said.
Dublin says SPS has made significant gains with its graduation rate just this last year and is excited to announce that in the coming weeks.