HAYWARD -- Parents and middle school students who want to take college courses will get help from the school district, which will hold the classes at the schools and even pay for books and child care for the adults.
Called "Second Chance Education," the parent college classes will be held at district schools in the evening or on the weekend. The classes will be offered to 100 parents, with priority given to those who would be the first in their families to attend college. The child care will be provided at the schools.
"Parents shared with us they want to get their education so they can better support their children, both academically and financially," said Chien Wu-Fernandez, a Hayward Unified spokeswoman.
The district is working with Cal State East Bay and Chabot Community College on the classes, said Christy Gerren, who is in charge of the program.
The classes are being paid for with a $22.5 million five-year state grant.
The district will use some of the grant to expand an after-school concurrent enrollment program permitting students to take college courses at district schools. Middle school students will now be able to take part; previously, only high school students were eligible. This summer, middle school students can enroll in a hybrid math/science class for college credit.
The grant will let the district add 1,500 students to its after-school enrichment program, bringing the total to 4,500 students at 14 elementary schools. Some of the grant will pay for software to help students learn English.
Neither Gerren nor Wu-Fernandez have heard of a similar program to help parents pursue higher education.
An official with the state grant program called the district's program creative and innovative.
"I can't speak to whether anyone else is doing something similar," Onda Johnson said, though she also had not heard of a program like Hayward's. "I applaud their efforts to include more parent involvement, both for the parents' benefit and ultimately for the children's benefit."
Hayward Unified has focused on getting parents involved in the schools for the past few years, holding classes on topics such as safety, curriculum and navigating the school system at its Parent Academy, Wu-Fernandez said. Another program gave parents educational stipends they could use for themselves or their children in exchange for assisting at schools. That popular program was discontinued when its grant ran out, but many of the parents used the stipends to go to college, she said.
"They realized they like being in an educational environment, and they're motivated to go back to school," she said.
The $22.5 million comes from the state Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
"We're so excited. We got our entire proposal funded, which is a bit unusual, but it's great for our kids. I'm not complaining," Wu-Fernandez said.
The parent college classes will start in the fall. Hayward Unified is working out the details with Chabot and Cal State East Bay, and it will start accepting applications in July.
"Parents have been telling us they want to further their education," Wu-Fernandez said. "We just had to figure out a way to make it happen."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.