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To our community:
We know by now that this pandemic is not just a healthcare crisis, but a crisis of equity. COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty and on people of color. It is widening existing disparities.
So while a virus like this is beyond any of our control, we must do what we can to address the inequities it deepens. Supporting our students is a part of that, both through basic resources like food and through academic ones. While some young people are doing rich online research and giving presentations over Zoom right now, others lack an internet connection and are learning from the same paper packet for a full week. This is why we are glad that NOLA Public Schools has now purchased the technology many of our students need to get online. It is also why we at NSNO have launched the New Orleans Technology Access Fund to help offset the significant costs of these critical resources. Please consider donating if you can.
We have continued to hear that these newsletters are a useful source of information, resources, and ways to help, and we are grateful for the chance to share more of the wonderful work we see across our community.
Every week, we find great hope and encouragement from the actions of our school communities.
- The Community Feeding Program from NOLA-PS and schools citywide continues to feed our city’s children. The program served over 300,000 meals between March 16 and April 3. You can see these sites in action and hear from some of our dedicated leaders and school teams here.
- FirstLine Live Oak Charter School celebrated Kendell, their student of the week, with a thoughtful shout-out.
- Middle school students from Morris Jeff Community School brought art to life.
- Bricolage Academy is helping keep students connected in creative ways, such as virtual joint recess.
Support for school leaders and teachers
Federal funding opportunities and understanding the CARES Act: Because New Orleans charter schools and networks are nonprofits, they can access two large but time-sensitive federal funding opportunities as a result of the recent CARES Act. Lenders are now processing loan applications for the Paycheck Protection Program; watch our short video to learn more. In addition, The Education Trust is helping schools understand the CARES Act more broadly through their fact sheet and a webinar that will be held today, April 9, at 2pm CST, featuring John King.
Resources for students with diverse learning needs: Our April 3rd newsletter to New Orleans school and network leaders focused on supporting students with disabilities and English language learners during this time. We shared reflections from experts as well as recommended resources.
Guidance on trauma-informed distance learning: Alex Shevrin Venet, a professor and professional development facilitator who specializes in trauma-informed practices, shares how her four core priorities of trauma-informed classrooms can be translated to distance learning.
Concrete examples of great teachers implementing distance learning: Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion Blog is studying how great teachers are moving their instruction online and sharing concrete examples with videos, such as “pause points” during recorded lessons. Lemov summarized his advice and best practices in an interview with 50CAN.
Thoughtful planning tools for school and network leaders: Although Instruction Partners’ school closure planning tool was created when closures were first being announced, its key actions and guiding questions are also very useful for leaders who are now looking to expand their distance learning plans. Instruction Partners has also re-launched their COVID-19 School Resource Hub with new resources, such as Leadership Toolkits, based on a hierarchy of needs framework.
Remote instruction platforms: Public Impact’s one-page guide to free and low-cost remote instruction platforms includes a useful table comparing their features and pricing. For educators who are using Google Classroom, InspireNOLA compiled tutorials for students and families to help them navigate the platform.
LAPCS Resource Hub: The Louisiana Association for Public Charter Schools (LAPCS) continues to update their resource page with guidance in areas like distance learning, translation needs, family and staff communications, governance, and legal considerations.
Educator resources shared in our previous newsletters can be found here.
Supporting students’ and residents’ needs
Food assistance for students: NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) announced that Lyft has donated $5,000 in free ride codes to families who need transportation to and from community feeding sites; details can be found here. 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. The schedule and list of sites are available here. The New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) continues to offer daily evening meals on weekdays from 4-6pm at most of its sites.
SNAP overview and fresh produce delivery option: The Education Trust prepared a fact sheet on Louisiana SNAP benefits during the pandemic. SNAP can be used for free local delivery of fresh produce and other groceries through TopBox Foods.
Additional food assistance for residents: Organizations citywide are offering specific food assistance programs for LGBTQ community members, service industry workers (also here), hospitality workers, and seniors. The Total Community Action food pantry is open to all from 8am-5pm through April 9.
Free Studio Be “in-home activity kit”: Studio Be’s artist collective has created “Home Is Where the Art Is,” a free coloring book and activity guide designed to inspire young people to express their creativity during this difficult time. The materials feature “historically relevant and thought-provoking imagery” and include activities for all grade levels. To receive a free copy, students and families can sign up here.
Virtual job fair: The Urban League of Louisiana will be hosting a virtual job fair on April 13 to connect job seekers with opportunities in essential industries, such as healthcare and transportation. Sign up here.
Free career training opportunity with Ochsner job offer: The New Orleans Career Center (NOCC) has launched a training pathway in partnership with Ochsner Health Systems that provides four weeks of free online training to earn a nationally-recognized Patient Care Technician (PCT) certificate. Students that earn the certificate will receive an immediate offer for an Ochsner PCT position, with immediate benefits and tuition reimbursement for continued education after six months.
Free health care: LSU Health, in partnership with K Health, is providing free virtual primary physician care for all of April.
Mental health supports: The Institute for Women & Ethnic Studies created a #GetYaMindRight virtual healing space. The group is currently paused, but will relaunch soon. The University of Holy Cross is offering free telecounseling; call 504-398-2168 for intake and scheduling. The New Orleans Grief Center is offering free teletherapy support groups for those experiencing loss. Dara Wellness and Podesta Wellness are offering free and discounted telemedicine services from trauma specialists; services are free for New Orleans first responders and on a sliding scale for others in need.
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 New Orleans students with physical donations: NOLA Public Schools continues to coordinate the collection of resources for schools, including sanitation supplies, masks, gloves, and educational materials.
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 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, 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
School closure extension: Governor Edwards formally extended school closures until April 30, along with the Stay at Home Order. The corresponding press release stated that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) “is in the process of determining what could potentially happen beyond April 30.”
Class of 2020 graduation requirements: The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released guidance concerning graduating seniors. Highlights include:
Seniors must still meet course credit requirements in order to graduate in the Class of 2020, but LDOE provided guidance on a variety of ways that can be accomplished. Requirements must be met by August, as high schools need to input final grades into the Student Transcript System (STS) by August 31, 2020.
School systems will make decisions concerning how course credits are awarded. They will determine whether students have demonstrated proficiency in the course content, and if not, provide options such as online coursework, written work packets, and portfolios. Pass/fail grades may be given instead of letter grades. Details provided here.
Standardized testing requirements for current graduating seniors are waived; details provided here.
LDOE anticipates being able to deliver diplomas to school systems on time, and provided resources and guidance for school systems that want to host virtual graduation ceremonies.
Policy and accountability updates from our previous newsletters can be found here.
We will continue to reach out through these newsletters. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions, concerns, or ideas. If you know of resources you think we should share, please let us know.
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