New program guides East San Jose parents through online learning
Photo courtesy of Alum Rock Union School District.

As school districts across Silicon Valley extend online learning to stop the spread of COVID-19, one local school district is helping parents — mostly immigrants and communities of color — get comfortable with the technology.

This week, the San Jose Evergreen Community College District began its Parent Academy, a series of courses that train East San Jose parents on digital tools, including Google Drive, Zoom and LinkedIn. On the first day, dozens of families joined with their children, speaking in Spanish and Vietnamese.

“We heard the needs of the parents,” said Alexandra Duran, dean of economic and workforce development at the district. “We are enhancing the program as we go because we learn from them.”

Duran said the idea for the program emerged from conversations with the district’s parent coordinators in East Side Union High School District, Alum Rock Union School District and Milpitas Unified School District. Roughly 140 parents registered for the program orientation on Wednesday.

According to Duran, 54 percent of parents enrolled in the program do not have a high school diploma.

The district tested its Parent Academy curriculum on a pilot group of 108 parents this summer. Most of the curricula were based on already-existing classes in the district’s college course catalog, and parents who participate in the program enroll as college students and have access to the district’s other classes and services.

“Now the parents are saying, ‘We love the fact that you’re helping us help our children, but we are also going to better our lives,’” Duran said. Following their participation in the program, many parents have asked about how to obtain their GED.

District Chancellor Byron Clift Breland said bringing parents up to speed on essential technologies is crucial to ensuring students remain proficient in math and reading skills — and prepared to enroll in college after finishing high school. About 40 percent of the district’s college students live in East San Jose, according to Clift Breland.

“We don’t know how long we’ll be in this environment,” Clift Breland said. “We see (the program) as a part of a larger ecosystem of support and encouragement and continuing to keep the pipeline primed.”

In addition to teaching software, typing and basic math, program leaders instruct parents on time management and stress reduction techniques, as well as provide tips on how to keep students engaged during homeschooling. Classes are offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Duran said the district stays in touch with parents who participated in a summer pilot program, conferring with them once a month. Araceli Ortiz, who enrolled in the Parent Academy pilot, said the program enabled her to help other parents learn how to use digital tools.

Maria Martinez said the program helped her guide her son through the curriculum taught by the Jose Valdes Math Institute over the summer.

“Throughout my life here in the USA, no one had ever before offered me this type of class,” Martinez said.

The district has scheduled Parent Academy sessions through November 4, balumut Duran said there will be classes in Spring. Learn more about the Parent Academy program here

Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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