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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Central Valley engagement center provides services to students and their families

Terrie VanderWegen, an associate superintendent of learning and a teacher in the Central Valley School District, shows the community and family room in the district’s Student and Family Engagement Center. The room includes a seating area, a long table for meetings and a play area for children ages newborn to 5 years old.  (Nina Culver/For The Spokesman-Review)
Terrie VanderWegen, an associate superintendent of learning and a teacher in the Central Valley School District, shows the community and family room in the district’s Student and Family Engagement Center. The room includes a seating area, a long table for meetings and a play area for children ages newborn to 5 years old. (Nina Culver/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The former Keystone Elementary School on South McDonald Road in Spokane Valley opened Monday as a safe harbor for Central Valley School District students and families, offering everything from social workers to a food bank to laundry facilities.

The building is also home to a new Boys and Girls Clubs location that began offering an after-school program Monday.

The goal of the Central Valley Student and Family Engagement Center is to support the entire family, not just the student, said Associate Superintendent of Learning and teacher Terrie VanderWegen.

“This will be the hub for providing services that maybe we can’t provide during the day,” VanderWegen said.

The center is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays and 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, as well as by appointment. The hours will expand in a couple of weeks when there is additional staff in the building, VanderWegen said.

There is a computer lab that parents can access during the day, so they can apply for jobs or public assistance and print documents. Students who don’t have internet access at home can use the lab after school and in the evenings to do homework.

VanderWegen said she’s hoping to arrange to have tutors available in the lab. The computers in the lab were purchased with a $25,000 grant from Modern Electric.

The community and family room includes a seating area, a long table for meetings and a play area for children age newborn to 5 years old. That way parents can have a meeting with a social worker or counselor while their children play safely in the same room, she said. Furnishings in the room came from a donation from Amerigroup.

“We have a safe space for the kids to play,” VanderWegen said. “We’re excited about this room. It has lots of purposes.”

Another room houses the clothing and food bank run in partnership with Spokane Valley Partners, which will help keep the shelves stocked. Everything from toothbrushes to school supplies are available, VanderWegen said, and the district is looking for donations of personal hygiene items and winter clothing like coats, hats and gloves.

There’s also space for parenting classes and meetings of the truancy board. VanderWegen said she’d also like to offer family counseling in the evenings. The district’s homeless liaisons and social workers will also be housed in the building.

In the back of the building is a laundry room with three sets of washers and dryers donated by Sun City Church that can be used by families by appointment only. A waiting room complete with toys and a television is in the final stages so families have a place to go while their clothes are being washed and dried.

The laundry room and internet access were among the things parents asked for when the district did a survey about what services it should offer in the center, VanderWegen said. “The rooms we decided to do were really in response to that survey,” she said.

Most of the building will be used by the Boys and Girls Clubs, which is leasing the building for $1 a year. It’s the only Boys and Girls Clubs location in Spokane Valley; the two other locations are in north Spokane and in Mead.

The capacity for students in the after-school program is 70, VanderWegen said, though that is expected to rise.

The program is open to students in McDonald, Broadway, Opportunity, Adams and University elementary schools and the students have to be referred by a school counselor or principal.

“Right now we have a limited number of schools because of capacity,” VanderWegen said.

The district had hoped to have the center open last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic put things on hold. Efforts to open resumed this summer.

“This really has taken an effort from every department in our district,” she said.

The center is open to all families in the Central Valley School District, VanderWegen said.

“We’re just really proud as a district to continue to serve our families to help reduce the barriers they may be experiencing.”

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Correspondent Nina Culver can be reached at nculver47@gmail.com.

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