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To our community:
People in New Orleans—and nationwide—continue to come together to help one another and make a real difference. I have been thinking a lot about what that means lately. Some of you know that after Hurricane Katrina, I was in charge of coordinating donations to the state. In that role, I learned a lot about what productive help looked like and how people could best serve those in need. Last week, I had the chance to share those reflections on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) blog.
Above all, I learned that in crisis, we must work carefully and truly listen to those we are trying to support. In newsletters like this one (and the others we have recently sent out), we hope to share the results of such careful thinking and listening. We are grateful to all those who are providing these resources, and who have taken the time and care required to deliver meaningful help. If you are looking to hear from educators themselves on what their schools are doing and what they need, the Cowen Institute has launched a great Q&A series.
We are also passing along some bright spots giving us hope, new opportunities to donate and volunteer, and policy updates that give important context to this moment.
We continue to find great hope and encouragement from the actions of our school communities.
Schools and education nonprofits from across the city are coming together virtually with a DJ to celebrate their educators’ hard work to make distance learning possible.
Élan Academy is midway through a virtual spirit week.
Support for school leaders and teachers
“First come, first served” federal funding opportunities: Because New Orleans charter schools and networks are nonprofits, they can access two large but time-sensitive funding opportunities through the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) as a result of the recent CARES Act.
New LDE and NOLA-PS resources: The Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) has released a suite of resources to support school systems with academic and workforce planning during the pandemic. NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) has created a page that educators can share with families with recommended distance learning resources.
LAPCS Resource Hub: The Louisiana Association for Public Charter Schools (LAPCS) has a resource page with guidance in areas like distance learning, translation needs, family and staff communications, governance, and legal considerations.
CER website: The Center for Education Reform (CER) launched a “Countering COVID” site with resources for distance learning and more. Supporting students’ and residents’ needs
Supporting students’ and residents’ needs
Support with rent and housing rights: The City, in partnership with Total Community Action (TCA), launched a rental assistance program on April 1. New Orleans residents who are no longer being paid by their employers can apply by calling the City at 504-658-4200 or TCA at 504-882-7181. Additional eligibility information available here; expected capacity is 200 households. In addition, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services has created a toll-free legal aid hotline to provide free support to residents around their housing rights (1-844-244-7871).
Food assistance for students: This week is the first full week of NOLA Public Schools’ (NOLA-PS) new Citywide Feeding Program schedule. NOLA-PS has moved to a consolidated program that provides families with multiple days’ worth of “grab and go” breakfast and lunch meals for students at one time. The schedule and list of sites are available here. The New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) is continuing and expanding its meal service.
Food assistance for residents: New Orleanians who are gig economy and hospitality workers can access a special hospitality food pantry from 9am-12pm on April 2. The Total Community Action food pantry is open from 8am-5pm through April 3. The City’s 311 hot meal deliveries for seniors have reached capacity and are no longer accepting new requests, but refrigerated meals are now available for delivery; low-income seniors and residents with chronic illnesses can request meals online or by calling 311.
Support with basic needs: The Greater New Orleans Caring Collective has been formed to support community members who are at high risk for COVID-19 and thus unable to leave their homes. They offer assistance with grocery and supply deliveries, school meal deliveries, laundry for those without access to a washing machine, and limited financial assistance for those who have been rejected elsewhere due to a lack of paperwork.
Internet access: NOLA-PS is working hard to problem-solve at the city level to help address gaps in internet access and thus distance learning capabilities across our school communities. One solution is their procurement of 10,000 Chromebook laptops and 5,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. The devices are currently en route to New Orleans and will then be programmed for and distributed to students through their schools, based on need. Until then, families with smartphones who have T-Mobile, AT&T, Cricket, Sprint, or Verizon wireless plans may want to contact their provider to find out if their device and plan include the capability to use their phone as a Wi-Fi “mobile hotspot” (if so, here are instructions for Android and iPhone). Due to the pandemic, these wireless providers are offering free unlimited data, a certain amount of additional data for free, or waivers for data overage charges. Some of these offers have qualifications or are time-limited depending on the provider; please be sure to read your provider’s offerings (linked above) before use. Other free internet access options are listed in our 3/25 newsletter.
Resources for unemployed residents: Due to increases in demand for certain products and services as a result of the pandemic, many companies are looking to hire additional employees immediately. These job opportunities can be found on WorkNOLA’s COVID-19 page. In addition, Catholic Charities and the City continue to offer assistance with unemployment benefits enrollment.
Relief for musicians, artists, and hospitality workers: Culture Aid Nola has been formed by several local nonprofits as a collaborative relief effort for New Orleans culture and hospitality workers; resources include meal distribution, Medicaid support, and more. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation has launched a Music Relief Fund for local musicians who have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis. Additional resources are listed in our 3/25 newsletter.
Supporting children and adults with disabilities: The Louisiana Department of Education has created a “Family Toolbox” to help families support the continuous education of students with disabilities. In addition, Disability Rights Louisiana is offering assistance with disability-related COVID-19 concerns for both children and adults; send an email or call 1-800-966-7705.
How You Can Help
Support New Orleans students and schools: NOLA Public Schools is now coordinating the collection of resources for schools, including sanitation supplies, PPE, technology devices, and educational materials.
Support local artists and gig workers: You can attend the “Live From the Porch” virtual concert on April 4 to benefit the New Orleans Business Alliance’s Gig Economy Relief Fund. You can also support local arts and culture virtually through the Mayor’s “Embrace the Culture” series, and donate to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Music Relief Fund for local musicians.
Volunteer in person or virtually: United Way of Southeast Louisiana, HandsOn New Orleans, and Entergy have partnered to create the Entergy Volunteer Center for our community’s pandemic response. The Center is coordinating volunteer opportunities that are both in-person—delivering meals and staffing food banks—and virtual via phone and internet. The Greater New Orleans Caring Collective and Culture Aid Nola, mentioned in the Resources section above, are also seeking volunteers.
Volunteer to support public health: Louisiana Volunteers in Action is looking for volunteers (both medical and non-medical) to support the Louisiana Department of Health as they work to meet the surge in health/medical needs.
Donate PPE: Our local first responders are in urgent need of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves, and goggles. The City has launched a PPE drive to collect any equipment that can be spared by individuals and businesses, such as nail salons/spas, construction companies, non-emergency medical providers, and more. Donations can be left in drop boxes across the city. Supplies for Saints also continues to coordinate drop-offs between PPE donors and local hospitals in need.
Provide urgently needed food support: Second Harvest Food Bank is running low on non-perishable foods and is in desperate need of monetary donations to sustain emergency relief food efforts. Donate here.
The following organizations and initiatives mentioned in our previous newsletters continue to seek much-needed donations and volunteers.
Monetary and physical donations: Feed the Front Line NOLA, Chef’s Brigade, the Blood Center, the JLNO Diaper Bank, the New Orleans Council on Aging, the GNOF Disaster Response and Restoration Fund, the United Way SELA Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund, and local PPE rapid manufacturing by Scale Workspace
Policy & Accountability Updates
New LDE guidance on serving students with disabilities: The Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) released a suite of resources and guidance on March 31 to support continuous learning for students with disabilities.
School closure extension coming soon: Governor Edwards has stated that he will make an announcement by the end of this week about an extension of the Stay at Home Order and school closures until “at least April 30.” BESE and the Louisiana Department of Education said they are working to run “a wide range of scenarios in case school does not resume [in person by May], including extending the school year, summer classes, or extended work in the fall.”
Graduation info coming soon: The Louisiana Department of Education stated on March 30 that guidance related to the graduating Class of 2020 will be released “later this week.”
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or ideas. If you know of resources you think we should share, please let us know, too.
New Schools for New Orleans