Assistance with enrollment, free and reduced lunch applications extended to 3 weeks to help more parents & guardians
For the second year, Boulder Valley School District staff offered a warm welcome to the new school year for families. New parents and guardians, as well as families that do not have the technology needed to complete back-to-school tasks, received assistance to start the school year on the right foot.
Nearly 1,000 people came through the center while it was open from August 2 to 18. While they were at the BVSD Education Center in Boulder, parents and guardians could get help with a variety of issues from enrollment to setting up parent portal accounts in Infinite Campus.
“The people we have served have been very appreciative,” said BVSD Chief Operating Officer Leslie Stafford.
In some cases the families are brand new to the community. The staff members at the center say they have met families who have recently moved to Boulder Valley from Spain, Costa Rica and Thailand.
“I had a family that said they had moved here two days ago. They saw the announcement on the website and came here. They arrived with a bag of documents,” said Lulu Castex, a Help Center staff member.
Much of the focus is supporting the family with computer-related tasks. This included important annual tasks like updating contact information and applying for free and reduced-price lunches.
“We have seen a lot of families that do not have experience with computers,” added Dolores Campos-Herzfeld of BVSD Nutrition Services. “
“We have helped them with things like access to Infinite Campus because a lot of times our elementary families have never used Infinite Campus. They can’t do anything unless they have a log on.”
Stafford says the Help Center was envisioned last year, when several systems moved online, making it more difficult for some families.
“The online application [for Free and Reduced Price Lunch] can sometimes be difficult. We didn’t want that to be a barrier to having people get the services,” explained Stafford. “Free and reduced-price Lunch applications not only give students free and reduced lunch, but also waives fees for athletics and school fees. We wanted to make sure that everyone is still getting the same opportunities.”
Over the course of the three-week period, Campos-Herzfeld, who goes by the name ‘Lola’ was on hand to guide people through that application process.
“Lola is our absolute expert in free and reduced lunch and she can walk families through it,” Stafford said.
“When they come, they are scared. They do not know how to do it. We help them through step-by-step. When they go they say, ‘good! That was so easy,’” Campos-Herzfeld said.
This year the Information Technology department set up 20 stations. On the busiest days, including the first day of school, every station was occupied. Additionally, there was a children’s activity area so that children could relax as their parents went through the process.
“We tried to make sure that they were welcomed at the door,” explained BVSD Director of Parent and Family Partnerships Madeleine Case. “That went a long way, to make sure they felt that someone was watching out for them and helping them navigate the process.”
While the three-week effort has been a success, she hopes that in the future families will receive the same warm welcome whenever they come to the district.
“I hope that when people come to the district office, whether it is for the help center or getting help in any variety of ways – them feeling like they are an individual and the person behind the desk authentically cares for the wellbeing of the family and the wellbeing of the student in particular,” Case said.
She and her colleagues are envisioning a Welcome Center that would serve this purpose, one day. Until then, they plan to continue to hold the Help Center at the beginning of each year.