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To our community:
In New Orleans, we are continuing to come together to support one another. We also continue to grieve—both collectively, as a community and city, and individually, as family members, close friends, dear colleagues, and neighbors are lost to this terrible virus.
Our children are also experiencing these losses and this grief, as well as anxiety, fear, and other difficult emotions. They miss the consistency, social connection, and mental stimulation they had in their school buildings, and they are absorbing the stress that all of us, as adults, are trying to manage ourselves. For the many families in need of basic resources like food, healthcare, or housing, these stressors are only compounded.
Our schools know this. Across the city, schools and educators are making a great effort not just to provide high-quality remote instruction, but also to address students’ basic needs and social-emotional needs. Many of our educators have been working on ways to support students that have experienced trauma since long before this moment, and so they are uniquely equipped to strategize about how to support them now. In this week’s Resources section, we share some offerings for both educators and families that may assist in efforts to help children cope.
We are also grateful for the chance to share other resources from across our community, and some bright spots that are helping us keep spirits up.
Every week, we find great hope and encouragement from the actions of our school communities.
- NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) has been working hard to provide students with the technology they need. Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots have been distributed to schools, and schools will be managing distribution to students.
- The Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School staff created a video for their students in which they send encouraging thoughts, share photos from the school year, and provide inspiration.
Though end-of-year celebrations will look different for our seniors this year, Livingston Collegiate Academy shared some photos of the Class of 2020 and gave its first “senior spotlight” to a student whose goal is to be a science teacher.
- ARISE Academy honored students’ great work with a socially-distant pizza party.
Support for school leaders and teachers
NSNO’s webinar calendar for educators: Given the abundance of webinars and other virtual learning opportunities being offered to leaders and teachers during this time, NSNO’s Schools team has created a document to provide centralized information about these offerings. A Webinar Calendar on p.1-2 lists virtual events by date, and the At-a-Glance section beginning on p.3 provides further information about each event. The document will be updated on an ongoing basis and includes both free and fee-based events.
Trauma-informed practices: As mentioned above, we want to focus on sharing some resources this week to help address the fear, anxiety, grief, and potential trauma many of our students may be experiencing—and the secondary traumatic stress educators may be facing.
- In-depth recommendations for educators from National Child Traumatic Stress Network experts, including specific suggested activities and a collection of additional resources
- A one-page overview of principles and practices for trauma-informed online teaching from the Columbia University School of Social Work
- Guidance on practicing trauma-informed teaching remotely and a discussion of secondary traumatic stress from Education Week
Additional LDOE resources for students with disabilities: The Louisiana Department of Education has released new and updated resources for supporting students with disabilities during this time. New resources include an individual contingency plan template and guidance on virtual small group instruction. The guidance concerning timelines and documentation has been updated.
Charter school guide to federal COVID-19 legislation: The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), in partnership with Bellwether Education Partners, has created a comprehensive guide to federal COVID-19 legislation specifically for charter schools. NAPCS and Bellwether will be holding a webinar for charter school leaders on this topic on April 20.
Distance learning models and early findings: Instruction Partners has shared guidance and early learnings around distance learning instructional models based on their work with schools and systems over the past month, such as a decision tree for choosing a model and logistical considerations for each model.
College and career counseling: WhereWeGo is a new, free counseling platform on which New Orleans students can discover, compare, and connect to over 40 low-cost post-secondary education options that take less time than a 4-year degree. WhereWeGo is providing free digital materials, webinars, and sessions for counselors and students during this time. You can visit wherewego.org for access and follow them @wherewego.nola on Instagram.
Educator resources shared in our previous newsletters can be found here.
Supporting students’ and residents’ needs
Trauma-informed guidance for caregivers: As mentioned above, we want to focus on sharing some resources this week to help address the fear, anxiety, grief, and potential trauma many children may be experiencing.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s recommendations for supporting children during the pandemic
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) guidance for understanding common reactions of children to the pandemic and ways that caregivers can respond to those reactions in a helpful way
- Seven concrete things caregivers can do and say to help children cope from the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress
Free tools and supplies for creative expression: A network of local arts and culture organizations have joined forces to launch Creative Response, a multi-pronged COVID-19 relief effort to both support New Orleans artists of all disciplines and encourage creativity among young people in this difficult time. In partnership with some of the New Orleans public schools that are serving as community feeding sites, Creative Response is offering free stay-at-home art kits with artist-designed activities and art supplies during meal distributions each Wednesday. Also, in last week’s newsletter, we shared that Studio Be’s artist collective had similarly created a free coloring book and activity guide for young people. They are now also offering a limited number of free art supply kits to accompany the coloring book/activity guide; interest in both can be indicated here.
Food assistance for students: Since school facilities closed last month, NOLA-PS and our schools have served over 540,000 meals to New Orleans students. Community feeding sites continue to be open on Mondays and Wednesdays only, serving multiple days’ worth of “grab and go” breakfast and lunch meals for students at one time; Lyft continues to provide free ride codes for families needing transportation to sites. The New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) has expanded its weekday evening meal program for children with four additional sites.
Food assistance for residents: Some New Orleans WIC offices are now offering curbside service. Current hours of operation for all Louisiana WIC offices can be found here. Those in need in the local entertainment, hospitality, and service industries can receive free lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from Howlin’ Wolf in partnership with the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic. A number of other food assistance programs continuing from previous weeks can be found on the NOLA Ready website.
Child care for essential workers: Agenda for Children has formed a partnership with Care.com to help provide safe, affordable in-home child care options for essential workers in Louisiana. The partnership enables such workers to use Care.com’s premium platform free of charge for 90 days (note that the care service itself is not free in most cases). All options for essential workers are outlined here, including financial assistance information.
Face masks for non-medical essential workers: The City of New Orleans has launched the Sew Dat initiative to help support essential workers’ need for cloth face masks, while preserving surgical and N95 masks for healthcare professionals. Sew Dat allows non-medical essential businesses and workers to request locally donated cloth face masks and also provides a directory of local organizations and individuals selling cloth face masks.
Additional relief funds for local musicians and artists: The Save Our Brass Culture Foundation has created the New Orleans Brass Band Musician Relief Fund; musicians can apply for grants here. A network of local arts and culture organizations have joined forces to launch Creative Response, a multi-pronged COVID-19 relief effort to both support New Orleans artists of all disciplines and encourage creativity among young people in this difficult time. Artists who are out of work can apply for Creative Response Relief Fund grants here; the initiative is also commissioning artists to contribute to their youth activity kits.
Mental health support: The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies’ #GetYaMindRight virtual healing space has resumed and is available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Resources for student and family needs that were shared in our previous newsletters can be found here.
How You Can Help
Help New Orleans students access online learning: Thousands of New Orleans public school students do not have access to the internet and/or computers at home, making it harder for schools to provide high-quality instruction and prevent learning loss during this time. NSNO is working to offset the cost of these critical technology needs—help us close the digital divide by donating to the New Orleans Technology Access Fund.
Donate or sell homemade cloth face masks for essential workers: As mentioned above, the City has launched the Sew Dat initiative to help support essential workers’ need for cloth face masks, while preserving surgical and N95 masks for healthcare professionals. The City encourages any individuals who are able to make cloth face masks to contribute to the cause; those who are able to donate homemade masks can sign up here, and those who are interested in selling homemade masks can sign up here. Guidance on creating face masks is provided here.
Buy t-shirts to support residents in need: Screens for Good, a project of the local t-shirt company Dirty Coast, has partnered with organizations like the New Orleans Business Alliance and the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic to support their COVID-19 relief efforts. Half of the proceeds from the sale of certain partner organizations’ t-shirts and tote bags will go toward those partners’ efforts (proceeds from some pre-existing partners’ merchandise go toward local causes unrelated to COVID-19).
Support New Orleans artists and musicians through donations: Contribute to the organizations mentioned in the previous section that are working to provide relief to local creators—the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, the New Orleans Brass Band Musicians Relief Fund, and the Creative Response Relief Fund.
Support New Orleans musicians through virtual events: WWOZ’s Livewire gig calendar has been transformed into “OnlineWire” to spread the word about New Orleans musicians’ virtual gigs. Find your favorite artist’s gig and support them through online tips. WGNO is raising money for the Jazz & Heritage Music Relief Fund with its “Save the Music Louisiana” special. Watch on April 18 at 9pm—immediately following the WHO and Lady Gaga’s “One World: Together at Home” global special—and donate to the Music Relief Fund.
The following organizations and initiatives mentioned in our previous newsletters continue to seek much-needed donations and volunteers.
- Supporting students and schools: NOLA Public Schools continues to coordinate the collection of resources for schools, including sanitation supplies, masks, gloves, and educational materials.
- Monetary and physical donations: Second Harvest Food Bank, Feed the Front Line NOLA, the New Orleans Business Alliance Gig Economy Relief Fund, the GNOF Disaster Response and Restoration Fund, the United Way SELA Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund, the Jazz & Heritage Music Relief Fund, the New Orleans Council on Aging, the Blood Center, the JLNO Diaper Bank, the City’s PPE drive for first responders, Supplies for Saints (PPE), and local PPE rapid manufacturing by Scale Workspace
- Volunteering: United Way and HandsOn New Orleans’ new Entergy Volunteer Center, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Greater New Orleans Caring Collective, Culture Aid Nola, the New Orleans Health Department, and the Louisiana Department of Health
Policy & Accountability Updates
Schools closed for the remainder of the year: On April 15, Governor Edwards signed a proclamation extending the closure of public school facilities through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Both Gov. Edwards and Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux emphasized, however, that remote learning must continue in every community. After the announcement, NOLA Public Schools stated that they are “actively working with school leaders to ensure parents receive updates on requirements for the remainder of the school year, graduations, and potential summer school options, as they are finalized.”
Additional guidance from LDOE: Following Governor Edwards’ proclamation, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released further guidance for school systems.
Course credit and promotion for grades K-11 – LDOE released new guidance for grades K-11 which complements the guidance released previously concerning graduating seniors. Similar to the overarching approach for seniors, most decisions remain at the discretion of the local school or school system, with guidelines from LDOE on sources that can be used to make these decisions. However, the testing waivers and pass/fail grading option made available to seniors are not applicable to 9th-11th graders.
Distance learning case studies – LDOE added guidance to their continuous education resources suite on how to support distance learning at the classroom level—depending on the extent of students’ technology access—through a “high-tech” case study and a “low-tech” case study. The latter spotlights New Orleans’ own FirstLine Schools.
Technology options and discount pricing – LDOE released a distance learning technology document that provides (a) guidance for leaders around the various connectivity solutions available for students without internet access and how to determine the best option for their students, and (b) opportunities to participate in discounted consortium pricing for technology devices.
New Orleans Class of 2020: NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr., shared that the district is “working in close collaboration with our high schools to make sure eligible students are on track to graduate on time.” He said the district is also “working with schools to implement guidelines recently issued by the Louisiana Department of Education in order to meet graduation goals.”
OPSB board meeting public access: The Orleans Parish School Board’s monthly committee and board business meetings are still scheduled for April 21 and 23, but virtually instead of in-person. The public will be able to participate in these meetings via phone or Zoom; when released, access information will be available here.
Policy and accountability updates from our previous newsletters can be found here.
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