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Fern Creek HS knocking down student barriers one load at a time

The school is opening a laundry room for students. Research show it greatly improves attendance.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There are a lot of factors that can keep kids out of class, but Fern Creek High School is implementing a new service to make life a little smoother for its students. The school is getting ready to open a laundry room. There are around 1750 kids at the school, and 69 percent of the student population at Fern Creek qualifies for free and reduced lunch.

"On any given day, 20 to 40 of our kids will actually be homeless, and they will need access to these services,” Fern Creek High School Principal Rebecca Nicolas said. "Truancy impacts students almost more than any other indicator for their academic success. Students who feel like they're going to be in some way targeted because they smell or their clothes look dirty, they just won't come to school."

School leaders said research is really to thank here. Studies show that schools with on-site laundry increase attendance for students by six or more days. That number alone convinced the school to act, and the alumni association stepped up with the supplies.
It donated the washer and dryer and a lot of the other items you'll see in the room. It's also a spot for students to get extra food, toiletries, and winter wear.

"It was like a storage closet, and it was just stuffed with stuff,” Nicholas said.

It’s been quite the transformation. Fern Creek wanted to make sure the space was welcoming and comfortable for students. That's why it's Laundry and Loot, instead of calling it a program.

"We wanted something that wasn't like oh you're going to the laundry room, no I'm going to Laundry and Loot, so just something fun,” Fern Creek High School Assistant Principal Jai Wilson said. 

School leaders understand this can be a sensitive issue for kids, but they're hopeful it'll get a lot of use.

"It's absolutely a stigma, and it's one of those things that we're going to have to break from the beginning and say it's okay to need a little help. It's okay to ask for a little bit of assistance,” Wilson said.

Laundry and Loot will be open from 7 to 3 Monday through Friday. Every student gets his or her own laundry bag with a specific number on it. They can either drop their clothes off and pick them up or learn how to do their laundry with an instructor.

"I've gone in and just said this is the way it is, it's super easy breezy, laid back, we're not judgmental,” Laundry & Loot instructor Cokie Harris said. "This is a positive place with a positive vibe. We've all worked very hard, so it just warms my heart."

The school hopes this initiative removes the stain of stigma one wash and dry at a time.

“We really try to provide wrap-around services for our kids. We really do have to be a school that provides everything for our kids so that they can excel academically,” Nicolas said. "Really at Fern Creek, all means all. It doesn't mean for some. It doesn't mean for most. It really means for all, and if we are going to ensure equitable access for all of our kids, we need these kinds of services. We need to remove as many barriers to learning as we can."

The official grand opening is Wednesday, but the school said it's already started some loads.