STEP Program Objectives and Updates for the recently completed School Year

SNC’s Student Tutorial Endeavor Program (STEP) is a an after school and summer program that provides educational, recreational and mentoring programs for low income students of color in West Oakland.  Through STEP we become an additional parent in the lives of these young people to give them support, guidance and encouragement so that their education is the foundation to their success in life.  We simply add to what our students receive from school and their home situations.  There are no fees for the children and youth we serve.

DUE to the global pandemic we here at SNC have been following the Shelter-in-Place guidelines established for schools.  When these guidelines were first announced we gave out all of our iPads to our student families.  We then implemented our virtual STEP tutoring program via Apple’s app FaceTime, along with texts and e-mails.  We maintained this level of distance learning through the end of the school year and continued through the summer.

SNC purchased all new Apple iPads using our summer camps and field trips budget (since all these activities were cancelled).  With our “virtual” STEP program well equipped we have been mirroring Oakland Unified School District guidelines of online learning for the 2020-21 school year; and we have gone one more “step”:

To augment our daily virtual STEP program we are implemented:

“Pandemic Pod Tutoring"

Our STEP “Pandemic Pod Tutoring” operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with deep cleaning and sanitizing done on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  Our STEP students are now split into three groups.  The groups will each number around 17 students; our two largest classrooms are set up for social distance learning with a maximum of 9 students and two tutors in each room.  Priorities:

SAFETY Priorities:

     ïFirst:       Wearing a mask to the entry of SNC is mandatory.

     ïSecond:  Temperature and Oximeter readings upon entry.

     ïThird:     Wash hands and checkout personal SNC mask.

     ïFourth:   Report to assigned classroom and checkout an iPad.


ACADEMIC Priorities:

     ïFirst:       Student school assignments and homework.

     ïSecond:  PDF workbooks of grade level curriculum on STEP student iPads.

     ïThird:     Individual STEM digital hardware and coding kits.

We feel that the comprehensive curriculum of basic grade level skills workbooks need to be brought back due to the chaos of how the last school year ended.  Reinforcing educational fundamentals and refreshing skills in reading, writing and math ensures a successful educational path but it can alleviate stress that online learning creates for some students.  In fact, recent reports reflect that the stress of the ongoing pandemic is taking its toll on students (let alone the parents!).  Pandemic Pods can be a safe way for students to see their friends; have contact with caring adults that aren’t parents (STEP staff and volunteers have excelled in this area for decades); and the students have a “new” routine.  All are beneficial to the welfare of the student if done SAFELY.  We at SNC follow the strictest guidelines of safety and always error on the side of caution.

Due to COVID-19 risk we are putting on hold our emphasis of student teams building computer hardware and creating software coding projects.  Individual STEM projects is our focus for now; but we hope to have online collaborative projects later in the school year.  Nevertheless, our top achieving STEP students will be given new SPHERO interactive robot kits to work on at home; which will provide interactive learning experiences for them and their families.  STEP students that are not high achievers will be able to access SPHERO robotics and our supply of “littleBits” STEM kits on their Pandemic Pod Tutoring day.

Finally, there are a few items that need a quick summary:

SNC is compensating some of our tutors due to the pandemic.  We want to ensure that their commitment to our STEP students does not jeopardize their own survival of this ongoing pandemic. We especially wanted to provide stipends to those that oversaw last year’s student teams and were willing to continue in that role online.  Furthermore, the Pandemic Pod tutors will receive larger stipends plus the disposable PPE items to protect themselves and students.

SNC will make sure each of its STEP students have an up-to-date iPad for home use.  We utilize the Apple ID Family Sharing with our students so that the expense of the workbook PDFs and coding apps can be shared on multiple devices and synced automatically when online.  However, we still have a small number of students whose family does not have reliable access to the internet.  These students are provided with iPads that have Wi-Fi + Cellular.  These iPads can be added to a family member cell phone account or SNC staff/volunteer cellphone account for around $10 a month.  We at SNC believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right and the global pandemic has revealed just that!

SNC has significant relationships with churches.  St. Francis de Sales parish community underwrites our camping budget every year and this summer provided the funds to replace our iPads that we gave away in March.  Oakland First Baptist Church, which owns the buildings SNC operates in, church members have made 100 masks for SNC students.


OUR BOTTOM LINES:

The health and safety of our students, volunteers and staff is our top priority.  We will immediately resume to all virtual tutoring if there is an infection outbreak in the Oakland schools or city.

     Education and Emotional Support of our STEP students.

     Hope for an “unprecedented” quick timeline on vaccines for all!

____________

Steven Reimer

Summer 2021

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