Unless you’ve got Mary Poppins living with you, this new school year is going to be challenging for everyone involved. We’re here to help make things a little smoother. Here’s where you can find free school supplies and extra support for distance learning.

Where to find free school supplies

Some schools will supply every student with supply kits at the beginning of the year. In Portland Public Schools: Boise-Eliot, Lent, Rigler and Vestal are just four of the schools where every student will receive supplies. Check with your school. Or see the full list including schools in the Parkrose, Reynolds, Hillsboro and Centennial School Districts at Schoolhousesupplies.org.

The Salvation Army distributes school supplies each year. Reach out to them to find out when they will be giving away backpacks full of supplies this year.

Boys & Girls Clubs have given out backpacks with school supplies before. If you are connected with a local Boys & Girls Club, definitely reach out to them to see if they will be doing it again this year.

Check with your school and school’s PTA. We’ve heard of some PTAs purchasing gift cards to give to families so they can purchase their own back-to-school supplies.

Extra support for distance learning

If you need internet access and do not have it yet, the Comcast Internet Essentials program provides low-cost internet for $9.95 per month — and the first two months are free. You may qualify for the program if you qualify for SNAP, Medicare or National School Lunch Program.

If you struggle to help your kids with their math assignments, check out the PhotoMath app in our story on helpful parenting apps. Also mentioned in the story, the Cozi Family Organizer can help you keep track of when your kids have virtual class meetings. Since two parents can sync schedules, our writer said it helped spread the emotional labor that usually fell to her.

During the spring, the PPS English as a Second Language department held a show on Comcast channel 28, and put videos on a YouTube channel to help parents who speak a language other than English navigate distance learning. They had shows in Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Arabic and Somali and it was all about supporting your child at home. Hopefully the department will continue this in the fall. Even if they don’t, parents who speak a language other than English should reach out to the ESL department’s community agents to help them navigate distance learning this fall.

Portland Public Schools is also working on partnering with community organizations to help families that need extra support. And organizations that are already working with historically underserved communities will most likely be offering some support to parents. If you have a connection to a community organization reach out to it to see what kind of educational support it will be offering.

A Portland mom with a son going into kindergarten is one of the co-founders of NestMeet, a web-based app that helps families connect to other families. Erica Porras Johnson and her business partner Ryan Wong didn’t necessarily build this app to help parents form pods, but that is definitely one use. And keeping equity and inclusion in mind, because pods by their nature are exclusionary, Porras Johnson built in the option for parents to self-identify as a person of color, so they can connect with other POCs or POC-allies. This app could be especially helpful for parents who don’t have that connection to other families in their neighborhood because they are new to the area or their children are not in school yet.

Denise Castañon
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