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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 14th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 33

Santa Maria families receive tablets to keep them connected during pandemic

By Malea Martin

Twenty Mixteco families from the Santa Maria-Bonita School District (SMBSD) received free tablets on Oct. 9 in an effort to connect parents with online resources as their children continue to learn at a distance.

The Parent Institute for Quality Education, thanks to an AT&T donation, gave out tablets to 20 Santa Maria-Bonita School District families to help them stay connected during the pandemic.

The Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), an organization that provides programming to engage and empower parents of schoolchildren, was awarded the tablets as part of AT&T’s Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund. PIQE is distributing the tablets to families across California, including the 20 families in Santa Maria.

Outside of pandemic times, PIQE normally provides in-person classes to parents to help them to become more engaged with their children’s schooling, and the organization has partnered with SMBSD in the past for this purpose.

“They provide their classes in our school locations to many of our students’ parents,” district Public Information Officer Maggie White said. “It’s about giving parents who aren’t familiar with the United States school system some assistance in how to be involved, how to contact teachers, understanding how board meetings work, understanding that attendance is important, those kinds of things.”

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing those in-person services became a challenge.

“COVID hit, obviously everything pivoted like any other organization, but we knew that our families were going to be those most disconnected,” PIQE Policy Director Patricia Chavez said. “They are the ones who don’t have computers at home or don’t have internet, are struggling financially.”

With the help of AT&T’s grant funding, PIQE set up a parent focus group in March to learn where parents were at with accessing technology, and continued to onboard parents over the phone and provide some of its programming virtually.

“We learned many of them didn’t have computers. They didn’t know how to navigate the web,” Chavez said. “But they did have mobile phones, so we needed to get parents onto a virtual platform.” 

Thanks to the donation of tablets from AT&T, PIQE was able to give 20 families free tablets. The families chosen to receive the tablet include 15 parent leaders from Comité Asesor de la Comunidad Mixteco Ñu ndavi, a group of Mixteco parents with kids at SMBSD, plus five parents who graduated from PIQE’s parent program. 

White emphasized that all children enrolled with SMBSD are given a district laptop to use for distance learning. The tablet donation is designed for parents so that they can stay connected to resources too, and help their kids succeed.

“The tablets that were given out Friday were more for parents to use,” White said. “It’s to help them connect with resources in the community, to help them connect with their children’s teacher, to help them do Zoom meetings for these parent advisory groups that they’re a part of.”

White added that the district has made efforts throughout the pandemic to ensure that families have access to the internet, including helping families sign up for low- to no-cost internet service and providing hundreds of internet hotspots to families. 

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When the county opens up Pfizer eligibility to those aged 12 and up, are you getting your kids vaccinated?

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