Schools install laundry facilities to help students in need, improve attendance

By having access to clean clothes, students gain self-confidence and are less likely to be targets of bullying or ridicule
By: | September 13, 2019

In an effort to support students dealing with homelessness, school districts have been installing washing machines and dryers. Having laundry facilities also has shown to help improve attendance rates.

In Newark, New Jersey, in-school washers and dryers have helped turn around a high school, according to a report by CBS News. Students who showed up for class at West Side High School in dirty clothes because of housing insecurity were getting bullied and skipping class, so the district installed five commercial-grade washers and dryers. “I think we really put the microscope on basic needs of kids,” principal Akbar Cook told CBS. “Everyone wants the high test scores, everyone wants them to perform well. But if the kid doesn’t feel confidence in just coming to school, being that person we know they can be, then what are we doing.” 

Earlier this year, Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky, opened a “Laundry and Loot” room that features washing machines and donated items such as socks and deodorant. More than 70% of students qualify for free or subsidized lunch, so the school has focused on removing attendance barriers for students from economically challenged families, principal Rebecca Nicolas told The New York Times

Richmond Public Schools in Virginia recently renovated its laundry room at George Washington Carver Elementary School, according to the Richmond Free Press. Funds have also been donated to open laundry centers at nearby John Marshall High School, Swansboro Elementary, Summer Hill Preschool Center and Richmond Alternative High School.

Muncie Central High School in Indiana also recently installed a washing machine and two dryers to help students in need. Laundry is done by students in applied special education classes to help them learn potential job skills, according to Ball State Daily. Similarly, Reading School District in Pennsylvania has installed laundry facilities as part of a program in which students with special needs are taught life skills such as washing, drying and ironing clothes, according to the Reading Eagle.

The Herald-Palladium reports that Whirpool has expanded its Care Counts laundry program, which has provided laundry machines in nearly 20 cities and dozens of schools across the country. Schools from across the nation are welcome to apply for the program.

From DA: School laundry rooms boost pride and attendance

Whirlpool donated the washers and dryers to Fairfield-Susin USD as part of the Care Counts program, with the district performing the installation. Families were informed of the opportunity in a discreet way, Martha Lacy, the district’s assistant director of elementary education, told DA last year. A few families came to the school to do laundry, while some students brought dirty clothes in the morning that were later washed by PTO volunteers or by teachers or paraprofessionals. Ultimately, supporting such a program helps to build community.

“Individual kids would come up to me and say, ‘It made a difference this morning because some days I don’t go to school because we don’t have clean clothes,’” said Lacy. “And if you can do that for even one student, it’s worth it.”

Resource: Whirlpool Care Counts program