ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) — Organizers of a new program say dirty clothes can keep low-income kids from attending classes, and now they have a plan to help remove that barrier for some students in Queens.

“A sense of self is something that will help our children continue to grow,” said PS 171 Principal Laura Kavourias. “Academically, socially and emotionally.”

A photo posted on Twitter shows nothing but happiness, joy and a sense of accomplishment on the faces of the students at PS 171. but there were no smiles in the photo.

“A lot of times our kids don’t come to school because they don’t have anything to wear,” Kavourias said.

The issue is too embarrassing for some parents to discuss openly, but teachers and principals see it, and not just them.

“We’ve seen it. We’ve seen it for years,” said Demetrios Vasiadis of 14th Street Laundromat.

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Even the chief operating officer of a clean energy company pointed out a bulletin board about the high number of absenteeism he noticed during a school visit.

“So we asked, what can we do to help? What can we do to fix the situation,” said Serge Aberergel, Hydro-Quebec’s chief operating officer.

The fix is ​​that parents will be given £30 vouchers for washing, drying and folding twice a month. It’s a collaboration between the school, a nearby laundromat on 14th Street and Hydro Quebec, which sponsors the free service.

“Parents are excited about this opportunity to not have to make the difficult choice between putting food on the table for me or cleaning their child’s clothes,” said Dr. Anuj Roopchandani, Zone 126’s executive director.

“There are two main problems,” Vasiadis said. “There’s a cost problem, right. Buying soap, buying detergent, buying fabric softener. The other problem is time. I have two children, they go to public schools.”

PS 132 in Washington Heights solved this problem in 2020 by installing a washer and dryer at the school. Starting Thursday in Astoria, the problem will also be solved.

“With clean clothes, they don’t feel ashamed to go to school and do their homework,” Aberergel said.

“Just having a place to come with clean clothes, go to school, be a part of the education system, have fun at recess, things like that will make kids feel good,” Kavourias said.


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