Srishti Prabha | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Sacramento-area children are headed back to school. From backpack drives and signing up for transitional kindergarten to information on transportation and changes to health guidelines, here is everything you and your students need to begin the 2022-2023 school year. 

Backpack Drives

School supplies and backpacks are an added cost for parents who can’t afford them or a stressor for children without parental support. 

Nnameka Okwudili is the founder of It’s On Us, which works with at-risk youth to provide temporary housing, apprenticeship programs, and address any needs they may be facing to secure their educational success. When she was 15-years-old, she says she remembers having a panic attack on her first day of school. 

“My mom had spent the last of the money that we had to buy my school supplies and two of my notebooks fell into a puddle of water on my way home,” she recalled. “I knew that we didn’t have money to buy it again.”

Okwudili is giving out backpacks and school supplies as a response to her own experience as a student in Sacramento. 

Organization: It’s On Us

Date: Saturday – August 27, 2022

Time: 11am-2pm

Address: Slim and Huskies at 3413 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95817

Free Registration:

Voice of the Youth founder Berry Accius finds that self-expression for youth can come in the form of backpack choice. His organization focuses on mentorship, leadership and building confidence in Sacramento youth. 

“It is necessary to get our kids ready for school which has become more expensive over the years,” he said. “At Voice of Youth, we actually go out and buy a variety of name brand backpacks and let the kids choose backpacks that match their character.” 

This year, his organization will be giving away 500 backpacks, school supplies, and food at their 12th annual Back-to-School Block Party on Aug. 27. Everything at the event is free and registration is not required. 

Voice of Youth has collaborated with local nonprofits to provide wipes and diapers, and connect families with resources like SMUD and Sacramento Regional Transit. 

“We want people to see the different resources in the community whether it’s mentorship or general help,” Accius says. 

Organization: Voice of Youth

Date: Saturday – August 27, 2022

Time: 5pm-7pm.

Address: 4625 44th St, Sacramento, CA 95820

Meals & food

Located in Del Paso Heights, the Sacramento Youth Center offers a variety of services. In an ongoing effort to help families affected by the pandemic, they are launching their meal distribution program called Free Family Fridays by the Sacramento Youth Center. The meal kits are designed for a family of four, but you are allowed to reserve more than one family meal kit. No special information is required in the registration form. 

Organization: Sacramento Youth Center

Date: Every Friday starting August 26, 2022

Time: 3pm-5:30pm

Address: 1901 Del Paso Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95815

Registration Required:


The Sacramento City Unified School District identified that 40% of their students were chronically absent this past year. That number increases to 60% for Black students. To continue the work to promote transportation equity, accessibility to education and mitigate chronic absenteeism, Sacramento Regional Transit is offering free rides to students in transitional kindergarten to 12th grade for the entire school year. 

K-12 students living in SacRT’s service area and using a free public pass (RydeFreeRT) were more likely to use public transit over other modes of transportation, according to a report by the University of Texas at Austin. Students also reported using the pass to access important non-school destinations after-school.

The RydeFreeRT program provides transportation to schools in Elk Grove Unified, Folsom Cordova Unified, Natomas Unified, Sac City Unified, San Juan Unified and Twin Rivers Unified school districts. Youth who are unhoused or in foster programs can also participate in the program, regardless of residence or school address.

To get a RydeFreeRT Pass:

  • Ask an administrator at your school.
  • Head to SacRT’s Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R St. (adjacent to the 13th Street Light Rail Station).
  • Ask a librarian at  Sacramento County Public Libraries.

Plan your trip:

You can also contact your school to be placed on their Bus routes.

Transitional Kindergarten 

Black families are the least likely to enroll their students in Transitional Kindergarten, which declined another 35% during the pandemic in California. The benefits of enrolling a child in a TK program are two-fold: free childcare during the hours your child is in school and skill-building for future academic success.

A study of the TK program in California reveals that students who were in the program were more proficient in letter identification, phonological awareness, quantitative concepts and applied problems. 

Learning at an earlier age can boost children’s test scores, and such students are less likely to be retained or placed in special education. The expansion and requirement of the TK program pushes for educational equity at an age when the learning gap can affect a child’s academic confidence. 

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill in 2021 expanding TK programs to encompass all 4-year-olds by 2025-2026. Districts are expanding outreach to comply with the laws by 2025.  

“Our TK program not only provides needed childcare options for a lot of families, it’s also an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to school at an earlier age and set them up for a successful educational journey,” SCUSD spokesperson Brian Heap said.

Enrollment is currently open for full-time and part-time TK programs throughout the county. Find yours below:


The California Department of Public Health is currently working with school districts to provide guidance on monkeypox. Sacramento City, Elk Grove and San Juan unified school districts confirmed that they will adjust protocols based on Sacramento County Public Health Department’s guidance. 

Currently, no extra precautions are being taken to mitigate risk of monkeypox due to its low exposure rate. SCUSD is the only district in the county to provide online information for parents on monkeypox transmission. Precautionary measures can be taken by parents and children:

  1. Avoid close contact, including sexual contact, with people who are sick or have a rash.
  2. Avoid sharing bedding, towels, clothing, cups and utensils with people who have symptoms. Items should be cleaned and disinfected before used by others.

If there is a potential monkeypox infection, families and staff need to notify their school and can reach out to Sacramento County Public Health who tracks and shares this data. The health department will utilize the same practices with monkeypox as with other communicable disease reporting requirements such as chickenpox, norovirus, and others. 


COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to students and staff members in Sacramento County. 

As of Aug. 24, the case rate of COVID-19 in children under 19 in Sacramento County is 18.9%. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Sacramento County has medium community-level transmission. 

This year students will be on campus with the option of being vaccinated. 

SCUSD has relaxed on its protocols for this school year. The district has switched from their surveillance testing response, where the entire school population was being regularly tested, to weekly testing for students in high-risk activities with close contact. 

Districts continue to vary in their mitigation and prevention practice. While SCUSD and San Juan Unified continue to shift guidance based on recommendations from the CDC, that won’t be the case at Elk Grove Unified. 

“The changes implemented by the CDC won’t impact the requirements and guidance we are following from California Department of Public Health, Sacramento County Public Health or CalOSHA that are specific to schools,” spokesperson Xanthi Soriano wrote in an email.

Parents should look to each district’s websites for more info.


Mental Health

The rise in mental health incidences for youth during the pandemic was exposed by student narratives in Elk Grove. Over 35% students at four different school districts in the county had elevated levels of chronic, sad or hopeless feelings, according to a report by the Sacramento County Mental Health Board. The breakdown by race showed that Hispanic students were reporting higher rates of depression. 

Sacramento County Office of Education Superintendent Dave Gordon says there are 40 mental health clinicians in the county’s 300 public schools. 

“Mental health is very important, and we’ve done a lot with our rollout of clinician to every school,” Gordon said. “People ask me, ‘Well, how can you possibly get to 300?’ And my answer is the same  — one school at a time.” 

Parents can try to reach the mental professionals at their school site or seek additional support elsewhere.

School specific:

General Resources: 

Educational Online Support

Learning loss has left its mark on students in Sacramento. SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar is acutely aware of the heightened achievement gap.

“With what the effects of COVID have been on the learning of our students, about 38% of our students met the standards in language arts, and 27% who met the standards in mathematics,” he said. “So that is not something that we’re proud of. It’s something that we are confronting.”  

Find free WiFi access and extra online learning resources to close the achievement gap for your children. 



Janelle Salanga contributed to the reporting of this story. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Srishti Prabha is a Report For America Corp Member and an Education Reporter for CapRadio News and The Sacramento Observer.