parent university (copy)

Some 400 parents graduated from BCSD's Parent University Program in April 2018, when this photo was taken.

For the past five years, the Bakersfield City School District has kicked off its Parent University with an event that draws hundreds of parents to the district's middle schools. But this year's theme, “We can do virtually anything,” is a hint that this year's event will be very different.

This Saturday morning, parents are invited to log on for a virtual kick-off to Parent University, a BCSD program aimed at building up parents' skills and confidence to support their children academically. Parents can take monthly classes in 10 "pathways" depending on their needs, according to Dee Dee Harrison, the district's coordinator for Family and Community Engagement.

Some of the offerings will be like previous years, but Harrison said some of the classes have special importance in this year of distance learning, particularly the ones involving technology and mental health.

Technology literacy will help parents get comfortable with Google Slide presentations or other assignment formats that have become common during virtual learning.

The classes on social and emotional learning and personal growth are aimed at helping parents in a particularly stressful year. There is one pathway for parents to learn about how to manage the social and emotional health of their children, and also one where parents will learn mindfulness and self-care techniques for themselves.

"We’re trying to help (parents) give back to themselves so they can give back to their kids," Harrison said.

Parent University 101 is for parents, often those of students in kindergarten, who are new to the school system. Dignity Health offers classes on health and wellness. There are classes just for the parents of English learners and students in special education. Parents looking to support their students in math and literacy will find classes, too.

Parents will be able to learn more about all of these classes and other resources at Saturday's event. Board president Rev. Ralph Anthony will speak, and deputy superintendent Mark Luque will offer a message on behalf on the district. Kotanya Kimbrough-Hubbard, a district instructional specialist, will give the keynote address.

Harrison said they are aiming for an event that is family-friendly and upbeat. There will be music and giveaways for attendees, including $25-$100 certificates to Superior Grocers. Though the district will stream the event live on YouTube, the district is encouraging parents to sign up through Zoom so they can join the interactive portions.

"(Parents) have been working really hard this year," Harrison said. "We want to give them time to have fun, be recognized for their hard work and help support them for the rest of the school year."

Virtual Parent University Kick-Off is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. To sign up for the event, visit go.bcsd.com/e1a.