Unprecedented Times, Unprecedented Authorizing: Students, Staff, and Alumni at Alternative Public Charter Schools Step Up to Serve the Community in Big Ways
During this unprecedented time, we want to be transparent around the challenges and successes, as an authorizer, as we navigate through this rapidly changing situation.
At alternative public charter schools, it is key for educators to maintain a virtual community and understand each student's situation to fully support them during this time.
We talked with LAYC Career Academy PCS (LAYCCA) to learn more about how they’re supporting their students during the ‘new normal.’
LAYCCCA serves adult students ages 16 to 24.
1. How has your school adjusted to the new normal that COVID-19 has brought to the world?
LAYCCA’s personalized and blended learning approach allowed us to be ready for distance learning. Our teachers are proficient using Moodle, Rosetta Stone, Education Essentials, Khan Academy, ReadWorks, CommonLit Lynda, Teknimedia, Google Sites, and YouTube, for delivering lesson content and assignments to students.
To keep our students encouraged, our student support specialists, leadership staff and teachers frequently send students motivational messages. Also, the LAYCCA team shares photos and videos, exercise suggestions, and even humorous memes to keep in touch, practice good self-care and keep our spirits lifted. Encouraging a virtual sense of community is important for students and staff alike.
2. What are some innovative ways you are engaging your students in distance learning?
In addition to the mentioned learning platforms, teachers have also been able to utilize Google Meet, Zoom, WhatsApp, and regular phone calls to connect with students and provide goal check-ins, lessons, study groups, and tutoring. Some teachers have even begun creating YouTube playlist lessons for students to access as needed and at their own pace. Our Medical Assistant (MA) students have adjusted very well to distance learning and are even recruiting their own family members to practice taking body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure, to name a few.
3. What are some challenges you’re facing doing distance learning with your students?
Challenges that students are dealing with come from environmental factors that prove to be limiting as they learn outside of the classroom. During these difficult times, some students have had to prioritize procuring income for their household or focusing on childcare above their own education. While some students have been able to transition their typical school day and hours to an online environment, others have had to adjust to completing assignments and studying whenever they can find the time. Some students have had to share the computer and internet access provided to them with other members of their household, further necessitating a more fluid academic schedule throughout the day and night.
Some of our teachers and leadership staff have extended themselves beyond typical school hours to accommodate the schedules of some students in an effort to address these unprecedented needs.
4. How are you supporting students with their distance learning and in other ways? (e.g., meal delivery, online community building, mental health awareness)
During this time, LAYCCA has adapted to support students in several different ways. We have scheduled two days a week (Mondays and Thursdays) where students can come to the school building to pick up food and hygiene supplies for themselves and their household.
Additionally, they are able to check out a school computer and/or internet hotspot for their academic use at home during this time. We also do home deliveries to our students in Wards 7 and 8. Each of our students is assigned to a student support specialist that checks-in daily via text message, phone call, video call, or email to ensure the students' wellness.
Through our partnership with LAYC, LAYCCA has offered online community-building activities and has continued to offer online wellness programs such as video yoga sessions and cooking videos for student use.
5. Are you still doing intervention work? If so, what does this look like in the new normal?
LAYCCA staff has been reaching out to adult students and parents of minors weekly in order to maintain engagement and provide students with distance learning instruction. Students are set up to continue working on skills in their personalized learning plans via various online platforms. SPED and general education teachers continue to collaborate and deliver specialized instruction and study groups according to each student’s IEP goals via Zoom and Moodle. Students are continuing to receive related services (counseling) via teletherapy as prescribed on students’ IEPs.
6. Anything else you’d like to share.
Our Medical Assistant Program is reporting 100% online attendance.
● Dr. Brian Sevier has done an excellent job on engaging the medical assistant students during distance learning by making his virtual MA classes interactive from one-on-one meetings, to study groups and even having students engage their family members by practicing taking their vital signs.
Computer Refurbishing for School Community
● During this time of crisis, our young people stepped up in a BIG WAY. Career Academy students and alumni chose to tackle the work of refurbishing laptops for their school community. Their hard work will help ensure that all of our students have access to the technology necessary to meet their goals. The heart and perseverance these young people have demonstrated speak volumes of both their character and bright futures ahead.
● A former student messaged us on one of our social media platforms and asked for ways to volunteer for our school! This warmed the hearts of all our staff. Chris has already helped on multiple occasions. He has created an inventory spreadsheet of all the groceries/hygiene items we have available for our students to pick up. He has also assisted in accepting and organizing large deliveries of bulk grocery items which will be given out to our students and alumni. We are amazed by his tenacity and graciousness.