As our leaders face unprecedented challenges during this pandemic, we are committed to supporting them, so they can support their students. The opportunity gap appears starker than ever against the backdrop of school closures and economic uncertainty. Leaders and communities are left with more questions than answers around equity, access, and achievement.
Education in our country will likely look different in the coming months and years, and we are ready to help leaders adapt to these new changes. BES coaches are working closely with school leaders, helping them navigate remote learning, meal delivery, and maintaining the health of students and families through this difficult time. We have also taken specific measures to shift operations to ensure the health of our team and the educators that we serve.
Through it all, we remain focused on the bigger picture: when we get to the other side of this pandemic, we will need more leaders, families, and organizations like ours to ensure that the learning loss we are encountering now does not have generational impact. To that end, we continue to deliver virtual training to our current leadership cohorts, and are actively recruiting for our 2020 Fellowship. Now, more than ever before, we must double down on creating, running, and sustaining high-quality schools that guarantee access and opportunity to students and families across our nation.
During this uncertain time, we want to share guidance and resources so that your school community stays healthy and engaged in learning no matter how long the interruption. We thank the school leaders who have generously contributed to this list for the benefit of the larger community. We’ll continue to update this round-up as we come across additional tips and resources.
Health of Students, Staff & Families
- Your school may be legally required to provide nutrition to families in the event of a health-related emergency school closure; click here for federal guidelines. To support social distancing, schools should distribute meals to go, rather than offering a place to sit down and consume meals. Consider distributing meals on a “drive-through” basis at set times of the day, or consider using local vendors as other “pick-up” sites if they will be easier for families to access.
- The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and The School Superintendents Association released a new source for school superintendents about two options — the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option —available for schools to receive funding to serve meals and snacks when schools are closed.
- Consider how the school can best address the health and learning needs of students experiencing homelessness and undocumented communities.
Distance & Virtual Learning
- Follow state guidelines on requirements for students to complete work during school closures. At minimum, the school should provide learning resources and activities, both hard copies and online whenever possible. For example, Brooklyn RISE Charter School (NY) is sharing their educational content with families via YouTube. Laureate Academy (LA) has published their distance learning plan on their website for easy access. Bloom Academy (TX) has created a remote learning Facebook group for Bloom families to connect with each other. At the middle school level, Compass Rose (TX) has created an online family and student resource hub.
- Continue to work with grade-level teams to build distance learning plans that are reflective of the work that would be delivered in classrooms. Think through educational equity and special education accommodations. For example, consider having families pick up Chromebooks so that students can access learning remotely, and provide all tech log-in credentials that students are used to accessing at their desks and in their classrooms. Click here to view a webinar from The Robertson Center at Success Academy on transitioning your school to remote learning, and here for a round-up of blogs by Doug Lemov and the Teach Like a Champion team on remote learning.
- Depending on your state’s guidelines, schools may be able to set up call-in hours or other remote access to support students with completing academic work. Utilize tools like Google Hangouts or Zoom, which is lifting its meeting time limit on free accounts. This list includes a comprehensive list of distance learning solutions, including systems with offline functionality, organized by subject. Note that Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum are among companies offering free or discounted internet access to families.
- If your school is offering packet-work or other take-home materials for students and families that are not available virtually, consider setting up mailbox distributions at the school (or at other community sites located close to families) along with available pick-up times. Include comprehension questions with take-home books whenever possible.
- Consider using incentives and clear deadlines for at-home work completion. Generate engagement by shouting out students and families who have completed work at home and sharing photos/videos of students reading, doing math lessons, etc. on social media and in communication to families.
- Click here to view sample packet work for elementary and middle school. Success Academy is providing open access to its entire curriculum and training, and KIPP schools has created a similar resource.
- EPIC is now allowing teachers to provide their students with free remote access to their over 40,000 texts for students 12 and under. This is a great workaround for students who need new leveled IR books. Reading A-Z is providing this service as well.
Communications & Messaging
- Families want clarity, calm, and a plan. Schools should use multiple platforms to communicate with families, including main office voicemail, text messaging, the school’s website, social media, posting on school front doors, and sending letters through U.S. mail. For examples, check out Élan Academy’s (LA) distance learning page, and Ethos Classical’s (GA) Google Site for family-facing information to live in one place. Be forthcoming with families about the work you’re doing to ensure cleanliness, community health, and safety moving forward. All communications should be in languages accessible to families.
- Ensure that school voicemails or message inboxes do not fill up (i.e., callers should not receive a “mailbox full” message). Set a standard schedule to check messages frequently (such as hourly during school hours) and respond quickly to messages left on school landlines and any staff cell phone lines that families use.
- If you haven’t already, create and roll out a written staff communication plan, with clearly assigned roles and responsibilities. Clearly state any information that you do not yet have, along with when you anticipate having this information. Along with group information, ensure that you are checking in with each staff member individually.
- Keep in mind that as you receive information regarding an individual staff member’s or student’s exposure to or acquiring of the Coronavirus, FERPA laws require that privacy of all individual identities and information be maintained. General announcements (e.g., one family has identified exposure to the virus and are currently self-quarantined) is legal; naming individuals is not.
- Charter School Capital is holding a series of upcoming webinars on communications planning and preparing for attendance/staffing issues.
- ExcelinEd has a map and database with state-by-state updates on actions education systems have taken in response to COVID-19.
- The U.S. Department of Education has published COVID-19 guidance for schools.