District Helps Parents Prepare for New School Year
By Dianne Anderson
Parents are trying to wrap their heads around pulling double duty in the coming months with their child students, even as many toggle making a living working from home.
One struggling small business owner and mother of four in San Bernardino said she is glad that this year seems more organized than last school year at the city school district.
Since the pandemic, she also takes advantage of free weekly boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with free daily lunches for her fast-growing boys.
Every little bit helps.
Last week, she registered online to access the platform that enables parents to monitor all reports and activities of their students. One of her teens is a special needs student, and she needs to exchange his device. She’s still not clear on what additional support is available for him, and she is concerned for her five-year-old.
“I have a meeting with his new teacher. They’re going to explain their homework, and how he is going to be in the classes,” said Ana, who didn’t want to use her last name.
The kids study while she works, and she constantly checks their internet history to make sure they’re not on YouTube or playing games. She tries her best to monitor parental controls.
But that’s not all she’s worried about. She’s hustling to make online parent meetings. Recently she was upset to have missed a school meeting because she had to pick up supplies at the school for her other kids.
“I have to call tomorrow to see if I can get any materials for my son. I’m hoping they have what he needs. My friend said that her school is giving binders, books and everything,” she said.
San Bernardino school board member, Danny Tillman, said parent support is a priority, particularly for essential workers who may not be around during the school day to check-in for the students. Some child caretakers may not know how to operate the device, or living with elderly kincare who have difficulty navigating technology.
For whatever reason, if parents or caretakers cannot access the technology throughout the day, they must talk to the teacher to access lessons, which will be available at night for parents to access. Students may be approved to delay turning in their schoolwork.
“The teacher will record presentations online throughout the day. Students may be a day behind, but make sure you have that conversation with your teacher, as long as we know that parent is putting forth the effort,” he said.
The good news is that the state has already guaranteed school district funding this year the same as last year, and not based on the Average Daily Attendance. This year, he expects more consistency in access with goals to mimic brick and mortar classes.
Tillman is also excited that school board YouTube meetings are pulling in hundreds to watch live meetings, something that never happened in the buildings.
“You have more people watching live now than ever before,” he said.
Today, his big concern is watching COVID-19 shoot nearly straight up. If schools had opened, he said older students transmit at the same rate as adults and would contribute to more cases.
Initially, Tillman motioned for distance learning because there was not enough Personal Protection Equipment available.
“They already told me that hand sanitizer was backordered and we couldn’t get enough to supply all of our schools until December. How can I open up before December if I don’t have enough hand sanitizer?” he said.
This year, the district is providing online technical support services that are available until 10:00 p.m. every school night. Technicians walk parents and students over the phone. If there is an issue, they can swap out the device.
Tremaine Mitchell, CEO of Youth Action Partnership, said they are also excited to partner with the district. Their Americorps members will provide another layer of support for students to complete assignments or makeup work.
“We know parents have a lot on their plate so we want them to see us as a resource for additional support for their students.”
About 40 Americorps members will help with high school tutoring, mentoring, working with parents to understand where their students are in their studies, social learning and life skills development instruction.
They’re using all technology platforms to reach out.
“We offer online materials, we use a mass text messaging app to reach the students, we use social media,” she said. “We use the old school phone calls to reach participants or parents with whatever they feel comfortable.”
District spokeswoman Maria Garcia said their teachers will continue to address students with learning deficits within the structure of distance learning. Daily live instruction is available and focused on helping small groups of students who may need additional support.
“We want families to know that SBCUSD teachers will continue addressing students’ learning deficits, if any, within the structure of distance learning. We remind all families that they are not taking on the role and responsibility of teaching their children,” she said by email.
The Information Technology Department is working to distribute devices, iPads, Chromebooks, and hotspots to their schools. A CybertTech hotline is open seven days a week to help families troubleshoot a range of technical issues.
Every effort is made to assist parents virtually and over the phone.
She said teachers have received training over the summer and schools have resource specialists, counselors, and other staff who can support teachers and students. Assistance for teachers is also available at school and district level.
“Demonstration teachers are another resource for teachers. Ongoing professional development is being offered to those supporting teachers to meet the needs of students,” she said.
And they have also set up a hotline to assist families with online registration issues.
“Our Family Engagement staff has been busy all summer providing virtual training for parents and guardians that focuses on the Aeries parent portal and Gmail. Schools are also reaching out to families to provide assistance,” she said.
To see parent flyers and a long list of school resources:
To watch the school board meetings, see https://www.youtube.com/user/SanBdoCitySchools
For more information, see