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The Power of Family Engagement During a Critical Time

As Spring Break 2020 approached, Pre-K 4 SA students and their families were ready for a well-deserved break. However, no one realized spring break would extend into distance learning from home through the end of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pre-K 4 SA acted quickly by collaborating with the San Antonio Food Bank and began food distributions the following week at its four education centers for families needing support. Leadership and teachers knew the importance of providing families with the healthy meals and snacks the children were accustomed to receiving during the regular school day. At the same time, the Pre-K 4 SA family engagement team acknowledged that parents and children would need more support and resources than ever.

Pre-K 4 SA believes in the importance of supporting families to help children have a successful learning foundation. Because education would continue at home, parent liaisons from Pre-K 4 SA’s education centers needed to find innovative ways to provide families a helping hand.

At the start of the school closure, the family engagement team quickly learned which parents could not attend the food distributions due to lack of transportation or poor health. Food items and first aid supplies were delivered to those Pre-K 4 SA families that needed assistance but could not make it to one of the centers. Each week, the team continues to reach out to parents to ensure they have food and their necessities are covered.

The family engagement team also researched local resources to share with families. Parent liaisons provided information related to diaper banks, rental assistance, and how to navigate eviction notices. One main source of information and support services Pre-K 4 SA shares is the City of San Antonio-Municipal Government Facebook page. On this page, the Emergency Assistance program supports the San Antonio community by paying rent, mortgage, internet and utility payments. Families can also qualify for a program that helps them receive direct cash assistance to help them with groceries, medical and gas expenses.

“With Pre-K 4 SA, our families feel they have a good support system that helps them and cares for them during this time of need,” said Virginia Sandoval, family engagement supervisor at Pre-K 4 SA.

The family engagement team began connecting with parents via Zoom video conferencing to continue the Parents as Partners sessions. This program was designed by Pre-K 4 SA to allow parents to engage in conversations collectively and to provide support to one another. The family engagement team saw the necessity to continue Parents as Partners during this time of uncertainty. Maria Montiel, parent liaison with the Gardendale Early Learning program, hosts weekly Zoom meetings for parents to connect and continue their support group. In an effort to accommodate parents’ schedules, Montiel creates flexible evening times for parents.

Montiel noticed that many parents were experiencing anxiety and other mental health struggles. The family engagement team came together and created a bi-weekly, hour-long exercise Zoom class just for parents. The team believes that by helping parents stay active together, they can combat the anxiety which has been triggered by this global pandemic. If you are a current Pre-K 4 SA parent and would like more information about the Parents as Partners program or exercise Zoom class, you may contact Virginia Sandoval at 210-206-2904.

“Parents as Partners is such a great program with the latest resources! I was struggling during this time but I was able to reconnect with other families which provided me with support and encouragement,” said Cassie Jones, a Gardendale Early Learning program parent. “In return, I felt I could also help other families experiencing distress during this pandemic by helping create a Zoom Family Fit program for all parents.”

Parent liaisons are continually performing home visits with families in an effort to connect them with teachers to continue high-quality early learning for the children. When needed, electronic devices, such as iPads, have been distributed to families for children to continue their learning from home and communicate with their teachers.

Additionally, Pre-K 4 SA just launched its Online Resource Center, providing families with more high-quality instruction material. Our educators collaborated to bring together instructional videos to not only share with Pre-K 4 SA families, but with the entire San Antonio community. In the Online Resource Center, you will find intuitive learning videos, read-alouds, bilingual instructions, and activities to support our youngest learners to continue their education at home.

Pre-K 4 SA wants parents to know that if they need anything—related to pre-k or not—to reach out to their child’s teacher or a parent liaison from their designated center. They are ready to help and connect families with needed internal and community resources.

“The traditional school year may be over for our children, but our families will remain a part of Pre-K 4 SA forever because of the bond we have created over the last few weeks,” said Felicia Williams, parent liaison at Pre-K 4 SA.

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