This is a lengthy response, however it all ties in to the topic.
I have been teaching and facilitating at Excelsior Charter Schools for the past 19 years, and have witnessed changes in education in those years including budget cuts, the aftermath of 911, the increase of school shootings, and new rules in response to COVID-19.
Excelsior does a lot of things well and adapting to change is one of them. Here is how we are having success during the time of COVID-19.
Excelsior is a Public Charter School serving grades 7-12, and we have campuses in San Bernardino County with one school in Riverside County. Our charter is for Independent Study, but we do have on campus workshops. Each student can check out either an iPad or Chrome book to use for the school year, and most of our course work is completed using the online content management system, Canvas.
Our success lies in the fact that we create Educational Teams every year that consist of a credentialed teacher who is a Facilitator and meets regularly with the student and a parent. The duties of the Facilitator are like that of a school counselor, but we see our students more often, and are available to tutor them in a variety of subjects and check all work in progress for completion. We are different from licensed counselors because we offer their services when the need arises.
When distance learning is taking place, we can offer access to licensed counseling services for emotional needs, and SPED services through email and telephone contact to set up Zoom meetings as needed.
We also have a career and college counselor who stays very busy helping with dual enrollment at our local community college and registering for Fall semester courses for our seniors. However, facilitators stay in weekly contact with all their assigned students using a variety of tools.
Our families are used to communicating with Facilitators through in person appointments, phone calls, emails, and most recently, Google Voice texting.
Once students were not allowed on campus, we were immediately able to switch over to Zoom workshops, and appointments to check up on work, tutor, and offer help. It took only a few days to get the word out to students that we had daily scheduled times to meet for classes and tutoring. If a Facilitator needed help with a specific subject, tutoring appointment could be set up with a subject matter expert.
Our website became more valuable as a source for workshops and tutoring sessions with links to the Zoom meetings.
Communication was a key part to our success, and there were Zoom staff meetings weekly with individual campus staff, and other meetings for IT help sessions as needed, and District Office Update meetings.
Our choir teacher has been amazing and put together an incredible YouTube video with our students all featured singing the National Anthem that will be featured for our Virtual Graduation. Here is the link to see just one of the possibilities: https://youtu.be/WncBtWbOl_o Keeping morale for both staff and students high was and is a priority during this time, and everyone has stepped up to meet this challenge head on. Our staff has gone above and beyond to be supportive with both peers and especially students. Our students know that we care about them.
Some staff members have created math tutorials for daily assignments that students can view at a time convenient to them. Our ASB has been busy having staff participate in collages with each participant holding up a work in a sentence of encouragement for our students to read.
We scheduled a drive through pick up for Caps and Gowns where we had stations for participants to drive up to and staff put items in the trunk of the car. No one had to get out of the car, and everyone practiced social distancing and wore masks and gloves if needed.
We were able to cheer on our seniors and at least let them know we love them and honor their success. We are going to have a virtual graduation and another drive through campus even to show off their cap and gown and pick up diplomas and turn in their iPads and other school supplies.
The outside of our school’s main campus has signs to let our students know that we miss and care about them. Our graduates have lawn signs to celebrate the class of 2020. We still serve lunches with a weekly drive up and pick up service for those families in need. Students and parents know that we have not forgotten them.