We want to encourage education colleagues and friends in our ABPC networks to share this family learning resource with their own parent networks in schools and districts. And I also want to introduce Matt Smith, our new Vice President of Policy for A+ Education Partnership, and the dad of two public school kids! – Cathy Gassenheimer
By Matt L. Smith
The 2020-21 school year has arrived for Alabama’s students, and if you’re like me, you are striving to adapt to the ever-changing school and work environment amid COVID-19. (Anyone else have a seven-year old banging on your office/closet door right now asking about wifi passwords?)
Some school districts have returned to full-time in-person school, some to a hybrid schedule featuring a mixture of virtual and in-person learning, and some to a full-time remote learning model. As school districts monitor public health data and prepare to return to familiar school schedules from years past, the majority of Alabama students will engage in (at least some) virtual learning for now.
For many parents and caregivers, “virtual learning” this past Spring was best described as “virtual insanity.” As a parent of a second grader, I can attest – the virtual struggle has been real. Many families, like mine, struggled with the sudden yet necessary change from in-person to remote learning.
If the image of seven browser windows open to different learning activities while attempting to connect live with the teacher on Google Meet conjures up past nightmares, you’re not alone. School districts and community organizations, seeking to support families in the crisis, flooded inboxes with a myriad of online resources. The assistance was well intended; however, in many cases, these resources left parents feeling more stressed and overwhelmed. It was difficult to know which resources were best to use and where to start. None of us were prepared for a pandemic – not educators and not parents and caregivers.
Seeking to ease some of the uncertainty felt last spring, the A+ team went to work this summer and developed our new parent portal with parents in mind.
Easily accessible on any mobile device and built to add to the information that local school districts provide, the A+ Parent Portal provides organized resources to help students learn from home. From online access and remote learning basics to help for every grade and subject, our easy-to-use Parent Portal is here to help as we all build our COVID-19 skill sets.
How to Use It: 2 Easy Steps
Step 1: Go to aplusala.org/parents from your computer or smartphone.
Step 2: Use the organized sections to navigate the site and find the resource you need. The A+ Parent Portal is conveniently divided into three sections:
Section 1 – Guidance and Decision Making
Provides information and guidance from experts for parents to consider when making decisions about your child’s schooling during COVID-19. Includes information from national and local health agencies (e.g., the CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health) as well as updated information from the Alabama State Department of Education.
Provides resources, such as online learning basics, grade and subject-specific lessons, and sites with free homework help, and more.There are also resources specifically designed to support Special Education students and English learners.
Section 3 – Coping & Well-Being
Supports students’ (and families’) mental well being. Multiple sources provide activities, tips, and strategies to help families cope during these extraordinary times.
A+ works to ensure great schools for every child. In this era of COVID-19, we want to ensure that a great school experience extends beyond the brick and mortar school to your living room. We want to be a partner to parents during this trying time and beyond.
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Dr. Matthew L. Smith joined the A+ team as the Vice President of Policy in 2020. Called to the education profession after completing his bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Georgia, Matt became a high school social studies teacher in Clayton County, an urban school district in metropolitan Atlanta.
During his decade-plus service in CCPS, Matt served as a Department Chair, School Improvement Specialist, Assistant Principal, District K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Director, and Middle School Principal. Along the way, he completed his MAT at Mercer University and his Education Specialist degree at the University of West Georgia.
In 2016 Matt entered the Doctor of Education Leadership degree program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During the intensive three-year experience, Matt’s studies included supporting roles in Orange County Public Schools (FL), South Bend Community School District (IN), and the PA State Department of Education. The cornerstone of his experience was serving as the Special Assistant to the Superintendent in the Birmingham City Schools during his doctoral residency. He completed his doctoral degree in May 2020.