School Districts Get Kids into Summer School
By Dianne Anderson
State school districts are in for big money, precisely $15.3 billion worth, which has local parents weighing in on how they would like to see the $435 million in COVID Relief dollars spent on their students.
It should be easier to meet their needs now.
San Bernardino City Unified School District school board member Danny Tillman said he doesn’t want to miss the “low hanging fruit.”
For years, he has heard requests for help from parent groups, including the African American parent association, ELAC, DELAC, and ESL.
“We just found out two weeks ago that we’re getting an additional $42 million that has to be spent within a year. The latest one from President Biden just passed in March [with] restrictions on how you’re going to spend it,” he said, emphasizing that parents can contribute input on funding priorities.
In preparation for the funding, Tillman called the Special Board of Education meeting last Wednesday. So far, there have been 22 meetings held in the past year to include parent input. Anyone who missed the recent meeting is encouraged to contact the district to submit their comments on how the money should be spent.
After the Board receives and approves its final budget from the state at the end of June, the Board will then review the SBCUSD budget again for possible modification on July 20.
The total allocation for San Bernardino City Unified School District amounts to $435 million in total stimulus relief, which also includes the first COVID CARES Act funding.
But for now, the district is calling on students to join summer school programs, and get reoriented and ready for the fall session.
Tillman said there has been a lot of preparation to get kids back to a clean learning environment, including air filters and a host of other safety protocols.
Summer busing schedules for elementary through high school are being coordinated, but he said there is no way to know how many students will return this fall. Parents with concerns have the option to keep students online with distance learning.
Tillman said he is excited to welcome Harry “Doc” Ervin from Bakersfield Unified School District, the district’s first African American Superintendent. While at Bakersfield, Dr. Ervin implemented a program that links social workers at sites with student services to help build relationships and student rapport.
He hopes to see something similar at the local level to address attendance issues.
“Those types of things will cost additional money but we have to do it,” he said. “The chronic absenteeism rate for African American students is unacceptable. Some of this money is [over] three years, hopefully we can use it to help kids immediately and provide them with additional resources.”
Parents can help get students up to speed with summer school programs. Surveys have been sent out to every parent, along with regular emails and phone calls about the registration process.
Joshua Gonzales, academic mentor at Akoma Unity Center, said they are preparing for six classes with ten students per class for their summer school project-based model. Younger students will get hands-on experience with counting money, and also discover career possibilities around planetary sustainability and infrastructure, population growth and traffic.
“We want to take it up a notch with STEM-related activities [focused on] their environment,” he said. “One project is a bridge design to help them think about engineering, environmental and some forms of civil engineering. “
It’s all about getting kids reoriented to a regular classroom and up to their grade level. Communication skills are a challenge. He notices kids online can get very loud and vocal, but then in person, they are shy and reserved.
“When you’re online, it’s disconnected. Even on Zoom, kids are having a lax response, they’re not engaged how they used to be. That whole year of them sitting there, maybe silencing their own voice” he said.
He wants more parents to come on by and bring the kids in real time.
“We are partnered with multiple schools, a lot of districts and set up a tutoring program for all of our Akoma students,” he said. ”The more the merrier, we want more kids here.”
Devona Robertson, parent organizer with COPE, has been participating and providing input in district meetings all year.
She hears parents say their children in the same household have very different responses to distance learning. Some may be okay with the Zoom model, while others are struggling. One of her children will attend summer school at Akoma Unity Center and the other will be participating with in-person classes.
Lately, her big concern is what comes next with the school assessment process to determine learning loss, and how it is quantified.
“People are concerned about the assessment,” she said. “How can you get the kids academically prepared when you don’t know what they’re missing, or what they’ve retained?”
For all of its challenges, she believes the school system has proven that it can adapt quickly when necessary. Through the pandemic, they moved fast to close the digital divide with laptops and resources, something that was previously unheard of.
She wants to see that same quick action and commitment to get Black students up to par.
“In short, we don’t know how this is going to go, but what we do know is the system needs to be flexible and that they have a plan of action,” she said.
With all the new rules coming down, she is concerned with how kids adapt to the expectation of masks, making up class work and even the three feet apart rule.
“Realistically we do know the system wasn’t working well before, but how can we use this experience we had with the pandemic, how quickly things were created, and manipulated. They need that same level of flexibility with this transition we’re getting ready to make,” she said.
For the summer school lineup, see
For Akoma Unity Center, see
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For more information on education and the American Rescue Plan, see