KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Moving may be tough for adults, but it can be even harder for children, who must adjust to a new school, new friends, and a new routine in a new place – sometimes even at an overseas location, like here in Rheinland-Pfalz. Add COVID-19 to the mix, and the changes can be overwhelming.
Enter school liaison officers like Lynn Rice.
“When families PCS, there can be so many different emotions going on,” said Rice, school liaison officer for School Support Services at U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz. “We are here to try and alleviate the stress families go through during a move.”
She said they do that by connecting with families before they come to Germany.
“School liaisons are knowledgeable of child and youth programs [and are] therefore able to provide program information prior to the family's arrival,” she said. “We provide school registration information, school calendars, and school zone information, and [we] offer the opportunity for youth to have a youth sponsor.”
The Youth Sponsorship Program pairs students who are already here with incoming youth to help them get acquainted with the community and school before arriving.
“Once the new student arrives, the sponsor will meet the new youth and lead him/her around the school and community,” she said. “[It’s] a great opportunity to help alleviate the stress of a transition, as it is so difficult to leave friends and try to make new ones.”
Once families are here, they receive assistance with final registration and any other questions they may have. The help also extends to families getting ready to leave the community.
“We are able to connect families with their gaining school liaison to prepare their transition,” Rice said.
Rice has worked for Child and Youth Services (CYS) for many years, starting out with four year olds before moving on to work with older kids. She came to Germany as a training specialist and then transitioned to become the school liaison officer. She said she loves assisting families with their move to Rheinland-Pfalz.
“When families reach out to you, once they arrive, they say, ‘Thank you for being in touch with me while moving. We appreciate you!’” Rice said. “I enjoy working with (Department of Defense Education Activity) administrators and district folks. It is so important to maintain great partnerships.”
That’s especially true considering changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the spring when corona hit, the schools changed to remote learning,” she said. “The schools responded amazingly, as this was something new to them. Laptops and hot spots were offered to families who were in need of these items. There was much coordination happening between families, teachers, administrators and military leaders.”
Rice said prior to the start of the fall semester, families were given the option to register for virtual school or do face-to-face learning. She said the same will be true for the spring semester.
To help combat the new challenges brought on by COVID-19, Rice said other assistance is being offered, including free lunch at school. Normally, families pay for their children’s lunches, with some families being eligible for free or reduced-price lunches thanks to the student meal program.
“However, as of November 2, all families are eligible for free lunches, as a waiver has been approved by the USDA,” she said. “This waiver will be in effect until the end of the school year.”
For more information about School Support Services and how to get in touch with the school liaison officer, head to https://kaiserslautern.armymwr.com/programs/school-liaison-officer-slo.