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Community Cares Program

Building deep partnership to ensure students experiencing homelessness have a place to learn during virtual school days


When Monterey Peninsula Unified School District moved to distance learning during the pandemic, leaders realized a crucial need to offer a learning option for students with critical needs, especially those experiencing homelessness. However, the district did not have enough of its own staff able to step in to provide support, so working with partners across the community, the district launched the Community Cares Program to provide these students with a physical location for supervised remote learning support. These partnerships expanded over time to support additional students, including the children of essential employees.


MPUSD executed agreements with four local nonprofits and city groups (the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, the City of Seaside Recreation Department, and Community Partnership for Youth) to offer on-site learning support and enrichment opportunities for referred students. Programs ran from 7:30 am to 4 pm. The district provided all facilities, meals, and materials and paid partners a weekly, per student fee. Partner staff provided academic assistance during distance synchronous learning time, offered enrichment and physical activities, and served meals.

Initially, students were accepted to the program based on the following priority order: students experiencing homelessness or in foster care; students with individualized learning or 504 plans; students identified as struggling with online learning; and emerging multilingual students (i.e., English language learners). Over time, this approach was also expanded to offer care during and after school for the district’s essential employees through the district-run Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) program.

Making this program possible required deeper ongoing partnership between the district and community organizations. MPUSD Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh reflected: “[prior to the pandemic] we already had the partnerships, but it was more like we were two different organizations. […] Now we're much more like we're a team. The communication is much better. The follow-up is much stronger.”

The focus on expanding care programs, combined with a lack of certified paraprofessional staff able to serve as site leaders, also forced the district to work creatively to bring in new talent. The district was able to waive initial certification requirements, which allowed partner staff to serve as site leads at the ELO programs. In addition, the district created two pathways to paraprofessional certification, which partner staff could voluntarily opt into. Over time, this approach will also help the district build a pipeline for community members working at partner sites to pursue pathways to work within the district.

This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.

Strategy Resources

Community Cares Referral Form

This referral form was used by employees to identify students for Monterey Peninsula’s Community... Learn More

Community Cares Partner MOU

This memorandum of understanding (MOU) was executed between all partners for Monterey Peninsula’s Community Cares... Learn More

MPUSD Paraprofessional Waiver for ELO Staff

This memorandum outlines MPUSD’s policy to waive paraprofessional requirements in order to offer additional support... Learn More