September 10, 2014 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

How many of us don’t end the week wondering where the time has gone?  Between work, keeping up the house, kids’ activities, and just plain old family time, it can feel nearly impossible to fit in just one more thing. Like many working parents, Valarie Taylor says that, although she would like to be more involved in her children’s school, it’s just difficult to find the time.

“I try to help out with the classroom parties and volunteer for field trips,” Taylor says. “My work is pretty good about flextime.” She says she is also a member of the PTO, but she still feels that she could be doing more. “Sometimes it would be nice to be more involved on a day to day basis; to see the dynamics of the classroom and how the teacher interacts with the children.”

“It’s tough,” says Sue Rice, Principal of College View Elementary School in Council Bluffs, who describes Taylor as one of her “super-volunteers.”

“It’s really hard for parents to have a fulltime job and also participate in their child’s education.” Rice and her staff identified the growing need to move from the traditional school groups and toward a more innovative and inclusive way of doing things.

“What I’ve found out, as the years have gone by, is that it is really hard for people to attend meetings and be on committees and do all the things they need to do while holding down a fulltime job,” Rice says. “So we’ve kind of come into the 21st century and looked at what can we do to help parents feel involved and get them interested in their children’s education.”

While Rice says that the school still has the traditional PTO meetings that occur every other month for those who can attend, more and more parents are becoming involved by participating in the committees online. “PTO is run different,” she says. “People are able to sign up for things electronically.”

Another way that many parents are able to engage in their child’s classroom activities is by joining their classrooms’ Facebook pages.  “Parents can see, during the day, what is going on in the classroom.” Rice explains that teachers and students alike take turns posting about what the children are learning as well as about daily events. Short video clips can also be added. “It’s just another way of becoming involved and it provides a glimpse into what’s happening in the classroom if the parents can’t be there.”

Rice adds that even though parents are very busy, the school has had a great response for volunteers. The increased access to committees and groups online has not seemed to hinder or decrease onsite parent involvement. “Parents have a lot of opportunities to be involved. We still have parent volunteers that come in for classroom parties and activities.”

College View, which opened four years ago and has been recognized as an International Baccalaureate World School, has added several clubs for students, including a running club, Spanish club, and art club, all of which have been sponsored by parents.

By embracing technology and thinking outside the box, the faculty at College View has been able to reach and accommodate more parents than ever before. “We’ve tried to spread it out so there are a variety of opportunities for everyone, rather than having just a select few doing everything.”

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