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Hey, Fresno Unified students: Are those differential algebraic equations kicking your butt? And how about that English paper that you just finished writing at 3 a.m. — need somebody to backread it for you before you turn it in?

Now help for students struggling with schoolwork is just a mouse click away.

The district has launched a partnership with Tutor.com to provide free online homework help and tutoring in more than 120 subjects. Fresno Unified is paying $280,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds for 10,000 hours of tutoring time.

And it doesn’t matter if the questions come up late or night or on weekends, officials said Wednesday during an online news conference to promote the new program — tutors are always available.

The program is being rolled out to students across the district starting this week after being piloted at Bullard, Hoover, and McLane high schools, Ahwahnee, Cooper, Kings Canyon, Wawona, and Yosemite middle schools, Hamilton K-5, and Adams, Centennial, Easterby, Olmos, and Williams elementary schools.

After-Hours Help Available

Bullard senior Macyn Topoozian told reporters that she connected with Tutor.com recently when one of the questions on a practice test for her AP statistics class stumped her.

In the past, Macyn said, “I would have just asked my teacher or gone to the office hours, but it was too late for the office hours, and with the Tutor.com it’s available at any time.”

Macyn said she’s already recommended the tutoring program to other Bullard students.

Once students log into the district’s online portal, they can click a button that takes them to Tutor.com. English and Spanish-speaking tutors are available now, and the district is working with Tutor.com to arrange for Hmong-speaking tutors, said Carlos Castillo, instructional superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and professional learning. “But that’s not in the near future yet,” he said.

Tutor.com was incorporated in 2000, two years after a group of education and tech professionals agreed that the advent of the internet provided an opportunity to connect tutors to students in need. In 2014 Tutor.com merged with The Princeton Review; the company provides test preparation services and also college and career readiness programs.

Incentive to Take AP Classes

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said that although the tutoring services are available to students in all grades, he expects that it will be used more by older students who are taking classes that are more advanced and more difficult for parents or other family members to help with.

If the tutoring proves successful and is widely used, the district plans to keep offering it even after the pandemic ends and students can return to their schools, he said.

And it may provide an incentive for students who previously would have hesitated to enroll in college preparatory classes because they worried about getting enough academic support, Nelson said.

“If this helps one family get their head around having their kid take an AP class, which they might have not taken otherwise because they didn’t think they were going to get the supports, then that makes it worthwhile,” he said. “If that moves one family in that direction, that cuts the bridge of inequities.”

The tutoring and assistance programs that the district already provides will remain in place, so Tutor.com will provide an extra layer of support, said Kim Mecum, the district’s chief academic officer.

Why Wait Until Now?

Why didn’t Fresno Unified offer the tutoring service earlier? Equity, Nelson said.

Before the pandemic arrived in mid-March and schools were closed to slow the spread of the virus, not every student had access to the internet or a device to use, he said.

Since then, the district has distributed thousands of laptops, tablets, and hotspots to make sure students can connect to their classes during distance learning.

“Remember, before we were here now, we were not a one-to-one district, and really didn’t anticipate being a one-to-one district,” he said. “From March to now…it kind of felt like to some degree if we had done that prior to having universality of access, we’d be giving to the haves and maybe not to the have-nots, which may or may not be an acceptable excuse.”

Fresno Unified students can access tutoring help now at all hours. (Shutterstock)

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