With wife Margo De Leon beside him, Abraham Monterosso became emotional as he thanked Gladiola Elementary School staff members for helping support his family, including five children, while he was hospitalized for a week with COVID-19.
“I am extremely grateful to Team Gladiola for being so kind and supportive to my daughters,” he said in Spanish, as translated by Kent School Services Network coordinator Anna Rivera.
As he spoke, Monterosso wiped away tears. Soon many eyes were misty during the Zoom meeting, hosted by Gladiola Elementary School Principal Cheryl Corpus, Rivera and social worker Amy Hendrickson.
It was the end of a weekly Gladiola parent meeting focused on connecting with parents during the state-mandated school closure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Corpus began hosting the sessions the second week of the school’s Continuity of Learning Plan, and often more than a dozen parents logged on to ask questions and connect with staff and each other. (Through various methods, the staff has heard regularly from 96 percent of families during the closure.)
Some teachers have also hosted their own Parent Zooms with students’ families. The meaningful connections have inspired Corpus to continue using the platform, possibly even into next year, because it works well for many parents. Other Wyoming schools followed Gladiola’s example and began offering sessions as well.
“Throughout online learning, our parents have been put into the roles of teachers,” Corpus said. “What has really been important to us is letting them know we are thankful for everything they have done.”
Various Modes of Connection
As the school’s social worker, Hendrickson is in touch with how families are coping.
“This is tough for everybody,” she said, adding that staff has taken on different roles to touch base with families.. “What’s been helpful is that we’ve all taken different aspects to support. We have a meeting at least once a week to talk about what needs people have.”
Rivera said she has used the time to strengthen relationships, making sure parents have access to food, shelter, utilities, financial assistance and any other basic need. “We initiate every conversation with, ‘How are you? How is your family? How can we help?’”
Hendrickson said it’s like the script has been flipped. Many families check in to ask about teaching, while staff is concerned they are well and safe. “Very often on our Parent Zooms our parents’ questions are academic … and our questions are ‘How are your families doing?’”
During the Zoom session, mom Marie Phillips said her daughter, Kayla, a second grader, has done well with learning from home. She’s enjoyed connecting with staff.
“Kayla just surprises me every day,” Phillips said. “She will tell Dad, ‘Listen Dad, Mom already taught me that.’ She’s done really well.”
Mom Margo De Leon and the children — 10th graders Margarita and Margoth; ninth grader Lizbi; fourth grader Maylerlyn and first grader Abrahany — anxiously waited and prayed while their father was ill. Other members of his family had mild symptoms.
“It was very concerning for us because mom would exit our room crying because dad’s fever would be extremely high,” Lizbi said, as translated from Spanish. “It was difficult to come to terms with it but we are a very religious family and we left it in the hands of the Lord.”
Meanwhile, teachers dropped off food at their house without making contact, sent many texts to check on them and offered support. Teacher Lysa Stockwell brought over art supplies. Wyoming High School and Junior High English-language learner teachers also provided support for the older daughters, he said.
Now, Abraham Monterosso said, his children are “super excited” to be part of Zoom meetings and do homework. “They are just waiting for when they can see their teachers’ faces, their classmates in any way, shape or form.”
De Leon also expressed gratitude. “You guys are truly a blessing to the family.”