Parents and students will build their tech skills, learn about healthy eating habits, and potentially win a computer through a new educational initiative called Know & Grow that will launch in February.
“The pandemic and the resulting shift to online learning have exposed the digital divide that exists within our community. Many of our parents lack the technological skills and equipment needed to support their children in an online learning environment,” said Tina Barrios, PCPS’ assistant superintendent of Information Systems & Technology.
“This program will help to address both areas of need — with the added bonus of working in healthy nutritional concepts. This is very exciting news for our community.”
Know & Grow is the latest initiative spearheaded by Synced for Students, a Polk Vision/PCPS partnership created in 2020 to address technological inequity within Polk County.
Up to 25 adults and 30 children will be selected to participate in the first classes of Know & Grow, which will take place at Crystal Lake Elementary: A Community Partnership School and Inwood Elementary. Participants will be selected based on their family’s access to technology and their student’s performance in digital learning, among other factors.
“The schools will identify the families who they feel will most benefit from this new program,” said Kim Long, executive director of Polk Vision.
“While we are piloting Know & Grow at two schools, we plan to eventually scale the program to serve 10 elementary schools across the county.”
Over the course of three, 2.5-hour sessions, participating parents will be trained in how to use PCPS’ Parent Portal, the system that allows parents and guardians to access student records; and Schoology, the district’s online learning platform. An optional fourth session will help familiarize parents with additional computer skills, as well as more advanced computer training options available through the district. Sessions will be taught by PCPS’ Information Systems & Technology staff and will be offered at times conducive to participants’ work schedule.
“We’re aiming for measurable improvement in participants’ computer skills, and we’re making every effort to have this program be as accessible as possible,” Long said. “To identify where and how they’ve improved, we will test participants’ skills at the beginning and end of the program.”
Parents will be entered to win a free refurbished computer after each session they complete; their odds of winning improve with each session they take.
“These won’t be loaners,” Long said. “These will be computers that they own and use to continue building their computer skills and their ability to support their students in online learning.”
While parents are completing their training, their children will be taking part in a separate program headed by the district’s School Nutrition department. Students will learn about healthy nutrition through interactive games and will receive grab-and-go meals to take home after the session.
Class sizes will be capped at 25 parents and 30 children.
In addition to Polk Vision and Polk County Public Schools, other partners in the Know & Grow initiative include: Central Florida Healthcare, Learning Resource Center, the Polk County Library Cooperative and Theatre Winter Haven.
Learn more about Synced for Students at syncedforstudents.org.