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Charlottesville PTOs create central fund to support virtual learning needs
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Charlottesville PTOs create central fund to support virtual learning needs

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Charlottesville parents are teaming up to raise funds to support city schools as they start online for the first nine weeks, the division’s parent-teacher organizations announced Thursday.

Rather than have each school’s PTO raising money, the groups decided to establish a central fund through the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. Money from the Charlottesville City Schools Reopening Fund will be distributed to each school based on the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price meals.

About 44% of the division’s students are considered economically disadvantaged.

“CCS PTOs are partnering to raise funds district-wide rather than focusing only on their own schools at this time because we are stronger together, and together is the best way to build equity for all of our children,” the group said in a news release.

A committee — made up of a PTO representative, teacher, administrator and someone from the school’s committee — will decide how to spend the allocated funds, according to the release. Such expenses could include Comcast’s Internet Essentials plan that costs $10 a month, supplemental food, headphones for students and fees for child care, among others.

“The fund intends to fill these needs without increasing the financial stress so many of our families are facing, or adding to the out-of-pocket expenses so many of our hard-working teachers incur every year to make their classroom the best it can be,” organizers wrote in the release.

The central fund won’t replace each school’s PTO.

The Charlottesville school division starts the new year Sept. 8. Most Albemarle County students also will be taking online classes for the first quarter, which also starts Sept. 8.

Organizers of the fund said they hope to have the first round of money allocated to schools before the first day of school. They also plan to report back on how the money is spent.

Angel Feero, a parent of a rising kindergartner at Johnson Elementary, said parents are looking to make sure that virtual learning doesn’t exacerbate existing equity issues in the division.

Funds could go toward internet connectivity issues and relieving other stressors so families can focus on virtual learning. She said that when multiple family members are streaming video and audio — a requirement of virtual learning — the connection can be spotty.

Feero also is the coordinator of elementary programming for Abundant Life Ministries, which is planning to offer a half-day program four days a week for K-4 students.

Additionally, they want to make sure teachers and students have the supplies they need, such as math manipulatives and other items they would use as a school community but that parents don’t have at home.

Some city teachers currently are raising money for virtual learning supplies through DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding website designed for educators.

“There’s a lot of different things that the fund could help with to really make a difference for families,” Feero said.

To learn more or to donate, go to ccsptofund.org.

Charlottesville schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said in the release that there will be unanticipated needs as families start virtual learning, but the division’s budget is limited and no additional federal funding is expected.

“Administrators and teachers are creating a new online education experience from the ground up, bringing all of their expertise and creativity to this daunting challenge,” she said. “... We are grateful for and energized by this joint effort from our PTOs. It shows the deep commitment of our parents and families, and we invite the larger community to support it.”

Khalesa Powell, co-chair of the Jackson-Via Elementary PTO, said in the release that she wants every child to have what they need to succeed with virtual learning.

“My children from young elementary to high school all have different needs and my goal is a comfortable workspace for each and the one-on-one attention they may require,” she said. “We need to work together to get this done for everyone’s children to be successful.”

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