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To our community:

This pandemic continues to have a profound impact, not just on the health of our community, but on our economy, our education system, and the ways in which they intersect. In a recent national poll of families of school-aged children, 40% of low-income parents reported that they had been laid off from their jobs. This, of course, affects whole families, often hindering parents’ ability to pay rent, purchase food, and meet other basic needs. We have been glad to see and share the many ways in which our community is coming together to provide support and help address these needs.

Often, that has included resources like food and healthcare. Recently, it has also included rallying to provide children with the technology they need to continue meaningful learning at a distance. In New Orleans, roughly a third of families do not have internet access at home, and that share rises to 55% among families making under $20,000 yearly. NOLA Public Schools worked quickly to address this by procuring Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebooks to be distributed to students. At New Schools for New Orleans, we launched the New Orleans Technology Access Fund to help offset the significant cost of these purchases.

Within three weeks of establishing the Fund, generous local and national donors have helped us raise $575,000. Donations have ranged from $20 to $100,000, and every contribution matters—$20 buys a full month of internet access for one household. If you can, please consider helping us reach our goal of $700,000. Our children deserve it.

Bright Spots

Every week, we find great hope and encouragement from the actions of our school communities.


Support for school leaders and teachers

COVID-19 school nutrition grants: GENYOUth has created a COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund to help schools continue distributing meals to students during the pandemic. The New Orleans Saints in partnership with Dairy MAX contributed $50,000 to the Fund. Schools can apply for up to $3,000; grant funds can be used for staff stipends, sanitation equipment, and more

Free communications toolkit to help schools connect with families:Because of the importance of schools being able to reach, guide, and support families during this time, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation funded the creation of a free communications toolkit for schools. The toolkit includes a one pager on effective communications, downloadable templates, and the findings from a national poll of families to help schools understand what information has been reaching them, how, and how well.

TNTP family and staff surveys: TNTP’s Insight Survey team has created surveys that charter network and district leaders can use to better understand their communities’ needs during this time—both their student and family community and their staff community. TNTP has made the survey questions free and publicly availableSurvey administration and reporting services are also available, for a fee.

Supporting students experiencing homelessness: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) is hosting a webinar on April 24 about how charter schools can meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. To explore additional webinars and virtual learning opportunities being offered to educators during this time, check out NSNO’s Webinar Calendar and At-a-Glance Document.

Inclusion, equity, and access during distance learning: Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence offers thoughts and recommendations on prioritizing inclusion, equity, and access while teaching remotely. (Although intended for a higher education context, most of the guidance is applicable to K-12 as well.)

Teach Like a Champion remote teaching mini-course: The Teach Like a Champion Blog has created a webinar series called “Techniques and Principles for Remote Learning.” The seven-part series is sequenced and was taught like a course to a small group of educators; it includes videos from real lessons and demonstrations of techniques.

Guides to digital learning tools and platforms: EdSurge and the International Society for Technology in Education have created a curated directory of education technology products that are being offered for free during the pandemic; the directory is searchable and has extensive filter functions. The federal Institute of Education Science’s What Works Clearinghouse has also created a database of online distance learning tools and platforms with research-based evidence of effectiveness; it is searchable and has a few filter options.

Educator resources shared in our previous newsletters can be found here.

Supporting students’ and residents’ needs

Food assistance for students: NOLA-PS and NORD continue to offer free breakfast and lunch for children at community feeding sites citywide on Mondays and Wednesdays; multiple days’ worth of “grab and go” meals are provided on those days. Lyft continues to offer free ride codes for families needing transportation to sites. Over 600,000 meals have been distributed so far, and NOLA-PS is working with schools to ensure meals can be provided into the summer.

Food assistance for residents: The City is reminding residents that no ID is necessary to access Second Harvest food pantries (or for NOLA-PS and NORD meals for youth). It has also launched a NOLA Ready COVID assistance calendar, which shows dates and times for food assistance and other resources. The schedule for Lantern Light Ministry’s take-away meals for people experiencing homelessness has changed to 8am (breakfast) and 1pm (lunch and bagged dinner), in the Rebuild Center parking lot at 1803 Gravier Street.

Walk-up COVID-19 testing available:The New Orleans Health Department, LCMC Health, and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) are providing a mobile site for walk-up testing through June 3. Locations were chosen to provide outreach to communities that may have had limited access to testing so far. Dates and times can be found here

Virtual job fair: The Urban League of Louisiana will be hosting another virtual job fair on April 24 to connect job seekers with opportunities in essential industries, such as health care and transportation. Spots are limited; sign up here.

Financial relief for musicians: The Band Together Benefit is an online festival featuring performances from local Grammy-winning musicians that will be held from 3-6pm on April 25 in an effort to raise money for fellow local musicians. Beginning at 7pm on April 25, musicians in need can apply for $500 grants.

Conversations on COVID-19 and African-Americans’ health: The Urban League of Louisiana and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus are presenting a four-night “tele-town hall series” on the social determinants that impact African-American health, in relation to the pandemic and beyond. The series will take place from April 27-30; register here.

Supporting families with early learners:The Louisiana Department of Education is now offering two new resources for families with children from birth to five years old: a Guidance for Early Learning at Home document and a free three-month subscription (no credit card required) to Noggin, an educational app for children ages 2-5. Agenda for Children has a thorough list of learning resources for families with young children as well.

Supporting families with PK-12 learners:“Wide Open School” is a clear and well-organized resource hub with sections for both families and educators, broken down by PK-5 and 6-12. It includes general academic resources, as well as resources for English language learners, emotional well-being, students with special needs, arts and music, life skills, and more.

Resources related to people who have experienced domestic abuse: The City of New Orleans has compiled a list of services for domestic abuse victims that are accessible during the pandemic. The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence also shared concrete advice on how to support friends and loved ones experiencing domestic abuse during this time.

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.

Support local musicians in need: The Band Together Benefit is an online festival featuring performances from local Grammy-winning musicians that was created to raise money for fellow local musicians. Tune in online from 3-6pm on April 25 to enjoy the performances, and donate here to support musicians in need. The following initiatives mentioned in our previous newsletters continue to seek donations to provide relief to New Orleans musicians: the Jazz & Heritage Music Relief Fund, the New Orleans Brass Band Musicians Relief Fund, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, and tips for virtual gigs.

Donate blood and plasma: Because blood donations are so urgently needed at this time, Second Line Brewing is offering a free 6-pack to anyone who donates blood with The Blood Center or the Ochsner Health Blood Bank. The Blood Center has also begun accepting donations of COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.

Support NAMI New Orleans with physical donations: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Orleans is asking for help so that they can continue serving clients with mental illness during this time in a safe way. Donate disinfectants, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and more.

Help fund urgently needed food assistance: Second Harvest Food Bank is in desperate need of monetary donations to sustain emergency relief food efforts given that the number of residents in need continues to increase. Thousands of our fellow community members are seeking Second Harvest’s assistance. Every dollar helps provide four meals, so any donation amount counts! Donate here.

The following organizations and initiatives mentioned in our previous newsletters continue to seek much-needed donations and volunteers.

Policy & Accountability Updates

New Orleans schools teaching through May 15 or later: NOLA-PS district leaders have worked with school leaders to coordinate around a uniform end date for the school year—May 15—for most New Orleans schools. A small number of schools with previously-planned end dates past May 15 are keeping those dates. No New Orleans schools are ending earlier than May 15, and all are continuing instruction until their last day of school. (NOLA-PS is currently working with schools to ensure meal distribution continues into the summer; more information to come.)

2020-21 charter accountability changes to come: As we previously shared on March 20 and March 25, there will be no LEAP standardized state assessments, School Performance Scores, or letter grades for 2019-20 as a result of the extended school closures. This means that changes will need to be made to NOLA Public Schools’ and the Louisiana Department of Education’s charter renewal processes for 2020-21. NSNO CEO Patrick Dobard and Chief of Policy and Portfolio Holly Reid shared their thoughts on these upcoming decisions in a recent article from The Lens NOLA.

Impact of pandemic on local schools’ finances: At the Orleans Parish School Board’s virtual Committee of the Whole meeting on April 21, district leaders discussed revenue projections for the next few years. Given that a portion of New Orleans public schools’ funding comes from city sales taxes and that the revenue from such taxes has declined dramatically during the pandemic, it is projected that schools will lose crucial revenue for one or more years. District leaders shared financial models based on three potential scenarios, but explained that the scope of the pandemic’s fiscal impact is difficult to predict at this point given that there are so many unknowns (e.g., when tourism will return to a typical level).

OPSB meeting public access: The Orleans Parish School Board will meet virtually today, April 23, for both a public hearing on charter school applications and a board business meeting. The public can participate via Zoom or telephone. The board business meeting is scheduled to include a vote about the NOLA Public Schools Superintendent’s contract.

Policy and accountability updates from our previous newsletters can be found here.

We will continue to reach out weekly, with newsletters or other updates. Feel free to be in touch with any questions, concerns, or ideas. If you know of other resources you think we should add to our lists, please pass them along.


Patrick Dobard
New Schools for New Orleans

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