Berkeley school district offers free supplies to students most impacted by school closures

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Colored pencils and notebooks are among the free school supplies being distributed to students most impacted by the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, closure.

The school supplies are being offered through the Ed Hub, a partnership between BUSD and the Berkeley Public Schools Fund that started distributing teaching and learning resources April 27. More than 2,500 bags of school supplies have been assembled and are available to students identified by their teachers as being most in need during the school closures, according to BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott.

“From an equity perspective, we know that some students are much more impacted by school closure than others,” McDermott said. “The district, working with the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, wanted to provide an easy, one-stop destination for families to pick up the supplies they needed to access distance learning from their homes.”

Students eligible to receive bags — specifically, students from low-income families — have been contacted by the district informing them of this service, said Erin Rhoades, Berkeley Public Schools Fund executive director. As of press time, about half of the bags created have been distributed.

From more than $450,000 in community donations, $55,000 was dedicated to purchasing school supplies for the bags, Rhoades added.

There are five types of bags created to address different education levels, from preschool to high school students, according to an Ed Hub press release.

Supplies filling high school bags include scientific calculators and binders, while construction paper and crayons are among the supplies accompanying preschool bags, the press release stated.

More than 600 community volunteers, including retirees, Berkeley High School students and City Center Church volunteers, have helped in the assembly of the bags, according to McDermott.

“(The volunteers comprise) a variety of people and a variety of roles in our community who simply wanted to help,” McDermott said.

Located in the parking lot of the school district’s central offices, the drive-thru service is adhering to social distancing protocols, according to Rhoades. Ed Hub staff and volunteers are required to wear face coverings and families of students coming to pick up the bags are also asked to wear masks, McDermott added. 

Beyond school supplies, the Ed Hub is open three days a week and offers technological repairs and devices necessary for distance learning, including Chromebooks and hard copy learning packets, to students in need impacted by the school closures, according to McDermott.

“We want to ensure that all students in the district have access to distance learning and are not cut off by school closures,” Rhoades said. “The community has really stepped up in this crisis and has partnered with the Schools Fund to alleviate the inequities that have been heightened right now in our community.”

Contact Maxine Mouly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.