Administrator Karisa Scott was part of a Milpitas Unified School District Team conducting home visits to families facing challenges due to distance learning. Along with MUSD colleagues Norma Morales, Raquel Villalobos, Nicole Steward and Henry Robinson, Scott sometimes made multiple visits to the same homes for regular check-ins.
“When we were doing home visits, the No. 1 thing after supplying them with the technology, hotspots and computers was that they needed more structured support for their children,” shared Scott, whose team has made upwards of 50 home visits since August. “They needed an alternative to learning from home, and this program is the impetus of that.”
Scott started looking into options for in-person student support based on the feedback she received from families when Michael Mooney, the director of the San Jose City College-Milpitas Extension, told her that the Extension could be made available.
“Campus supervisors at Calaveras Hills and Milpitas High School have stepped up and been amazing,” said Scott, who also welcomed MHS EL counselor Aldine Dimmick to supervise the EL cohort as well as regular support from Cal Hills Principal Carl Stice. “They make sure all of the safety guidelines are being followed at all times.”
Opening up September 28 at the Extension, there are 37 secondary students and five on-site supervisors encompassing four separate cohorts. Three classes are open throughout the entire school day, while the fourth, targeting Thomas Russell Middle School students, runs from noon to 3:30 p.m.
“A lot of the kids here have come out of those home visits,” Scott said. “Kids come and go because this is voluntary. We have some who have been here from the beginning, some who came in the beginning and have stopped coming in, and others who joined us later on.”
One of the cohorts is dedicated to MUSD's English Language Learners whose families “expressed the greatest need,” Scott noted. “It’s hard when there is that language barrier and you are alone with a computer screen.”
Families first must complete a permission slip for their students—who must submit daily health screenings, practice social distancing, and wear face coverings while participating in these learning pods.
“I feel very confident in the safety procedures and protocols that we have in place here. It doesn’t stress me out,” said Scott, adding that desk shields provide an extra layer of safety at the pods. “We are really lucky here in Milpitas. We are always focused on what’s best for kids.”
The small-sized learning pods have allowed Scott and other team members to make stronger connections with students who are struggling with their studies, some before the pandemic hit.
“We get to know the families and that 10 percent of students who are struggling,” Scott said. “This has allowed us to prioritize these students, and it has made them feel important and shows them how much we care about them.”