Berkeley school district holds 1st Spanish town hall, hears feedback from Latinx parents

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The contents of this article, including all quotes, have been translated to English. They were originally spoken in Spanish during the event.

More than 140 Spanish-speaking parents of Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, students heard about distance learning and district initiatives Thursday, as well as gave district administration feedback about the issues they face during school closures.

BUSD administration held a town hall in Spanish for the parents of Latinx and English-learning BUSD students to share information, as well as to answer questions and get feedback about its plans for the next year. According to BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens, it was the district’s first town hall exclusively in Spanish. The meeting began with opening remarks from Stephens, BUSD board President Judy Appel and district board member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler.

“We hope you feel like an important part of the school district,” Stephens said to parents during the meeting.

Stephens then presented various slides for the parents, including an update on the district’s financial situation in light of the state’s budget cuts and results of a survey on distance learning experiences given to students.

Parents were assured at the event that various programs directed toward Latinx and underrepresented students in BUSD will not be cut, despite the district’s $7 million shortfall, according to Stephens.

Stephens also announced at the meeting that the district will be holding summer classes for some students, including two sessions for elementary school students, a program for middle school students and an opportunity for high school students to recover credits.

Students in the extended school year program and Berkeley’s Excellent Academic Road to Success after-school program will be automatically enrolled, and others who are interested can be recommended by their teachers or school administration.

According to Stephens, about 25% of Latinx students are currently not participating in distance learning within the district, a statistic the district hopes to address by reflecting on and updating its distance learning plan for the next school year.

He added that district administration will have a busy summer further developing plans and figuring out logistics for the next year.

Near the end of the meeting, parents had the opportunity to ask Stephens and other district administrators questions, most of which centered around how they could best support their children during this time.

Leyva-Cutler and Stephens directed parents toward online resources such as Khan Academy and reiterated many times that student and parent connections with teachers are crucial.

Gloria Muñoz-Hughes, an English language development teacher “on special assignment,” also suggested that parents listen to music with their students, which she said could help with learning.

“I want to applaud you that you all are proudly bringing up your children to be bilingual,” Leyva-Cutler said at the meeting. “It’s really a gift that you’re giving your children.”

The district will be deploying a survey to parents to garner additional information about parents’ plans to return their children to school in the near future.

Kate Finman is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.