New York City charter school’s reopening plan built around most vulnerable students

Dive Brief:

  • Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools created an Equity by Design plan that addresses the most vulnerable students and families first, according to an article in The 74 Million. The plan addresses both emotional and logistical challenges and includes a Back to School Facilities Tool Kit and Instructional Program Scheduling Map that were designed by a team of architects, designers and school leaders.
  • For example, rather than focusing on what works for the average student, the plan looks at how to accommodate those with special circumstances such as students in wheelchairs and students who struggled with online learning. The 100-page toolkit includes a visual guide for schools, ways to social distance when entering and leaving the building, on the way to and from school, and while inside the school.
  • The Scheduling Map addresses how to implement hybrid learning options that include teaching teams (rather than one teacher) and class configurations. Some students may be distance learning, while others are in the classroom. The team-teaching approach will allow for mid-year teacher quarantines without disruption, officials said.

Dive Insight:

Some experts predict that the coronavirus pandemic will have a long-term impact on schools. Already, social distancing is forcing schools to change daily operations. For example, some are operating by mail correspondence while others are using online tools like Zoom.

Douglas N. Harris, nonresident senior fellow of governance studies at the Brown Center of Education Policy, predicts in an article for the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank and research group, that the crisis will force teachers, parents and students to adjust and adapt to online learning. He also cautions that the shift to online learning will have unforeseen consequences.

Classroom configurations will migrate as the pandemic progresses. Flexible furniture, which was on the upward trend in classrooms even before COVID-19, will be utilized to enforce social distancing. After the pandemic eases, these flexible pieces can go back to creating shared spaces and collaboration areas.

Many classes may be held outside or with open windows that allow fresh air to circulate, and curriculum will also likely adapt to outdoor activities as a result.

Rather than trying to cram in-person curriculum into an online learning format, experts say teachers should consider blended learning platforms that have long been touted for their flexibility and student choice options. As schools revert from online to in-person, these blended learning curriculums could allow schools to toggle between in-class and distance learning scenarios.

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