Incredible Indies: How Our Member Schools Are Coping with COVID
Schools everywhere are scrambling in response to the coronavirus pandemic. As some districts close for early break and others transition to distance learning, 290 million children across the globe are affected by school closures. (1) The stakes are high—many students rely on their schools for basic necessities, like food and nursing—and it has been a harrowing week for educators across the country worried about their students’ wellbeing. But amid the stress of the current situation, we have been lucky enough to turn to our member schools for hope. Edward and I witnessed some of the action firsthand on a trip to Colorado last week. We planned to attend the Colorado League of Charter Schools conference, which was canceled, but we were still able to visit two outstanding Denver schools as they prepared for spring break to start two weeks ahead of schedule.
We arrived at the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School as it started to snow on Friday morning and were greeted by Executive Director, Letia Frandina. Our tour of DDES revealed students happily engaged in their lessons, showing no sign of stress despite the circumstances. We discovered a centerpiece of this calm on our tour: The Cloud Room. The Cloud Room is a quiet space, filled with wooden cloud shapes and soft cushions, that students can visit when they need to regulate their emotions. This is just one example of how DDES integrates character development throughout their programming. Another example is the light sensory wall, which we visited on our way out: turning the knobs makes the wall light up and change colors, giving students the opportunity to take a break and check back in with their bodies. To learn more about DDES, make sure to come to our November symposium, which is located just a five-minute walk from their downtown campus.
We then visited the Girls Athletic Leadership School of Denver, where the pandemic loomed slightly larger. GALS was one of our founding members and it was exciting to finally see the school in person. We were met by Executive Director, Carol Bowar, who gave us an enthusiastic tour despite dealing with an early spring break for the 500 middle- and high-schoolers at GALS.
To say that GALS is inspiring feels like an understatement. Even though we already knew much about the school, watching its mission enacted was energizing. Edward and I spoke to several students who touched on the value of the school’s gender focus; others praised the incorporation of movement in the classroom. In business casual, Edward and I were out of dress code. We would’ve needed sneakers for the day’s activities.
Like many of our schools, GALS is accountable to its community, and the faculty and staff were working hard to prepare Covid-19 resource packets for their students and families. These packets included critical information about food sites, healthcare, free internet, and national hotlines. The school also provided students with learning resources over the break, including meditation maps, self-care and wellness ideas, and podcast suggestions. GALS is not the only school in our membership to show a swift response to coronavirus. Last week in New York, VOICE Charter School sent over 5,000 pounds of food home with their students. This week, they opened a food bank. These acts of support are critical for so many families who will be dramatically affected by school closures. In New Mexico, the Albuquerque Bilingual Academy opened a Grab-and-Go meal site for families to pick up food. Chris Jones, the head administrator, told families to “Take time to exercise, cook, sing, and play games together within the four walls of your home. Make it a time that none of you will forget. Don’t let fear and anxiety take away from the fact that you have everything you need right there in front of you in your very own homes. Meals will be available everyday at our Central location with hopes that the worry of daily nourishment will become secondary to your much-needed family time.” In the midst of this difficult time, we are so grateful to the schools that are acting as beacons for their communities.
Join us next Friday, March 27th for a virtual meeting on this crisis where we share resources on distance learning, health and wellness and teacher support. RSVP here.
by Violet Cole, CPICS Associate Director