To our community:
As we continue to struggle with the fear and uncertainty of this moment, we are bolstered by the amazing work of our schools, teachers, school leaders, and the district at large. We are encouraged by the mobilization of schools and NOLA Public Schools to distribute food to all our children. We are moved by thoughtful messages from Superintendent Lewis, school and network leaders at Mary Bethune Elementary Charter School and Edward Hynes Charter Schools, and Orleans Parish School Board President Ethan Ashley.
Every day, our local and national community are creating more resources and supports for those in need. We want to share some of those resources and provide some updates for you here.
Support for school leaders and teachers
We sent out a newsletter to New Orleans school and network leaders that compiled some of the best resources for distance learning that we could find, and outlined the offerings of different Tier 1 curricula. It includes great materials from TNTP, the Charter School Growth Fund, and many more.
Bellwether, a national education nonprofit, has generously offered pro-bono services to support schools during the pandemic in areas such as operations, strategy, navigating state and federal policy, financial planning, and curriculum/instruction. TNTP is also offering similar limited pro-bono services.
Supporting students’ and residents’ needs
Expansion of food access – There are now 43 sites citywide where students can receive free “grab-and-go” meals for breakfast and lunch and 11 sites where students can receive hot meals for dinner. In partnership with Second Harvest, the NOLA Tree Project will also provide hot meals for children and adults from 3-5pm Monday through Friday at 1509 Filmore Avenue in Gentilly.
Internet access – NOLA Public Schools has purchased 5,000 wireless hotspots to increase the number of students across the city with internet access. This will facilitate distance learning even as schools are closed. We will learn more about the logistics of this in the days to come.
Mental health support – The Louisiana Department of Health has created a “Keep Calm Through COVID” hotline (1-866-310-7977) so that residents can access free, confidential counseling 24/7. The National Association of School Psychologists has resources for parents on talking with children about COVID-19, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness has a general resource guide as well.
Student empowerment – National student-run nonprofit Student Voice is providing resources for young people to get involved in responding to issues surrounding COVID-19, including how to adjust to distance learning.
Policy and Accountability Updates
Our primary focus, of course, is that students are safe, fed, and cared for during this time. We are also keeping careful track of the statewide decisions around our children’s education for the rest of the year.
The Louisiana Department of Education has made a number of important decisions related to policy and accountability for the 2019-20 school year, while other decisions are dependent on state legislature or U.S. Department of Education approval. You can review their March 17th presentation to school systems and their detailed FAQs page for more information. Some highlights of the decisions made thus far:
- The annual “instructional minutes” requirement has been waived, meaning schools will not be required to make up for the time lost during school closures.
- School systems and charter schools are not required to provide distance learning, but if they do, there are a number of requirements they must follow (e.g., special education).
- There will be no School Performance Scores, letter grades, or District Performance Scores for this school year.