As Covid-19 prompted the potential closures of schools, Los Angeles Unified School District reached out to PBS SoCal | KCET to discuss the possibility of creating a service to bridge the gap for students experiencing the digital divide. We quickly shifted over half of our internal staff to support these efforts. By partnering with LAUSD curriculum leads and teachers, our education and programming teams were able to match public media content to upcoming topics in LAUSD’s classrooms. For students without broadband access or adequate technology at home, we knew that we needed to find a solution that would allow learning to continue while the district found ways to provide students with the necessary technology.
We also understood that the pandemic would bring additional challenges beyond education and health needs, such as mental wellness and feelings of social isolation in children. Our education and digital content teams worked quickly to identify experts in the field to lend parents advice, give actionable things to do at home that could make the transition less traumatizing, and equip teachers with the tools they would need to understand remote teaching. And, to make sure students without adequate technology had as many resources as possible, our education team safely packed and distributed 2,740 backpacks in the Spring, with additional physical resources being distributed this summer.
Station collaboration was key to the service’s success. KQED, the powerhouse station to our north, facilitated PBS LearningMedia trainings for thousands of teachers from both LAUSD, and across California. Our teams worked to curate a set of activities that aligned with the broadcast schedule. By sourcing materials from PBS KIDS, LearningMedia and PBS Parents we found games, print-out activities and discussion topics for anyone who was aligning their instruction to the broadcast service. Which, we were happy to find, they were. By partnering with multiple California stations, we discovered that teachers in Monterey were printing the broadcast schedule to distribute along with physical materials to their students. Principals in the Inland Empire were reaching out to find out if they could see the schedules a bit earlier so their teachers could align the virtual classroom time to include more PBS resources. Stations all across the country utilized the broadcast schedule, on-air interstitials with instructional questions, and digital resources- while also tailoring all of those pieces to best suit their local community.