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Central Unified School District students who are doing their schoolwork at home until schools can reopen will have more people on their side to make sure things are going OK.

portrait of Andrew Alvarado

“I think this has the potential to be a very unique and special program for our community.” — Central Unified Superintendent Andy Alvarado

The district, in partnership with its teachers and classified employees unions, is launching #Central4Kids, a program that will match each of the district’s 16,000 students with a “caring” adult who will check in with the student and parents at least once a week to see how the student is faring with schoolwork and also with life.

The adult could be a district teacher or other staffer, or a community volunteer who has been vetted by the district.

“I think this has the potential to be a very unique and special program for our community,” superintendent Andy Alvarado told GV Wire℠.

The new mentorship program was introduced to the School Board at Tuesday’s meeting.

Making New Connections to Help Students

Alvarado said that he’d been thinking about how the district could do a better job of reaching out to students who will be starting the school year on distance learning, which will remain in effect until Fresno County’s coronavirus infection rates drop significantly.

Under a state mandate issued this month, schools in counties with rising rates of infection and hospitalizations for COVID-19 must remain closed until the rates come down and the counties are off the state’s watchlist for 14 consecutive days.

Central Unified students will have daily contact with their teachers for instruction. But Alvarado said they need more connections to help them through the challenges created by distance learning, and that it would be helpful for an adult “to check in to see how they’re doing as far as their wellness and nutrition and all that other good stuff.”

#Central4Kids also will involve parents, especially of younger children, to make sure the family’s needs are being met and if there’s anything the district or the community can do to help them, Alvarado said.

The goal also is “to see how the families are doing during this time, because as we know, there are many resources out there that go untapped,” he said. “The school system can actually be a nice conduit for that.”

Labor Partners Are on Board

Judee Martinez, president of the Central Unified Teachers Association, recalled how the community joined forces last spring to adopt Central High seniors after schools abruptly closed because of the pandemic.

“Having a mentor to encourage, guide, and help our students see the potential within themselves will be extremely positive and powerful.” — Judee Martinez, president of the Central Unified Teachers Association

“It made all the difference in the world to them,” she said. “Having a mentor to encourage, guide, and help our students see the potential within themselves will be extremely positive and powerful.”

Philip Chacon, president of the Central Unified chapter of CSEA, said the organization is eager to participate and help students and the community “in any way we can.”

There Will Be Volunteer Opportunities

Alvarado said he plans to start with district employees reaching out to students and families during the school day, but he acknowledges that more adults might be needed to contact 16,000 students. He said he’ll be reaching out to area churches, the Highway City Community Development organization, the Granville Teague Community Resource Center, and local homebuilders.

The district benefitted from the assistance of volunteers who brought meals into the community and kept families fed through the end of the school year and through the summer, and those volunteers and others have asked what they can do help Central, Alvarado said.

#Central4Kids could be the answer for them, he said.

Details of the program are still being finalized, and Alvarado said he expects to know more before the start of the school year on Aug. 12.

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