Jackson County school is caring for students when addicted parents can't

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Jackson County school is caring for students when addicted parents can't
By Lisa Stark, Education Week
(For PBS Newshour)

In opioid-stricken West Virginia, this school is taking on the role of parent. Lisa Stark of Education Week visits Cottageville Elementary, where students often lack food, clothes and transportation because of drug-addicted parents. In addition to increasing communication with local law enforcement, the school has created a mentor program that pairs neglected kids with role models they can trust.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: The number of deaths from opioid abuse continues to climb, topping 33,000 in 2015, according to the federal government.

One of the hardest-hit states is West Virginia, where the impact of the opioid problem can reach elementary schools. It’s not the students who are using, but their parents. Grandparents, foster parents and the schools are figuring out how to cope for the youngest kids.

Special correspondent Lisa Stark with our partner Education Week traveled to Jackson County, West Virginia. It’s the focus of our weekly education series, Making the Grade.

A warning to our viewers: Some of the scenes may be difficult to watch.

LISA STARK: Emily Durst’s fourth-grade class is a lively place. The Cottageville Elementary School teacher likes to combine math with movement and with music.

So, it’s not surprising that 10-year-old Briana Sotomayor looks forward to school and to learning.

BRIANA SOTOMAYOR, Student: I love to write. I write stories all the time.

LISA STARK: Briana came to Cottageville Elementary at the end of second grade. It had been a tough year. She and her sister Riley ricocheted among four schools and three foster homes, ending up at the Sotomayor home.

CARRIE SOTOMAYOR: They had reached a certain point where it was just they didn’t trust anybody. They didn’t believe anybody.

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