St. HOPE Launches New School Year with Robust Distance Learning Approach
More live teacher instruction, commitment to student to engagement, focus on real academic progress
Sacramento, CA, Aug. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Scholars at St. HOPE Public Schools are off to a strong start with the new school year being implemented in the “distance learning” format. St. HOPE worked over the summer with teachers, administrators and parent focus groups to design a program for distance learning that is based on live instruction and live office hours delivered virtually to maintain the highest expectations for learning, allow for consistent peer interaction, and enable teachers and staff to deliver the optimal level of support.
Sacramento Charter High School, PS7 Middle School, and PS7 Elementary School make up the St. HOPE charter network in the Oak Park neighborhood. Scholars are in school daily from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM in live sessions with their teachers. This provides structure and accountability and greatly reduces the burden on parents as teachers are right there to keep scholars on task and engaged in meaningful learning opportunities. Many scholars even choose to virtually eat lunch with their peers each day!
This daily live instruction mirrors the normal schedule of an in-person school day. Teachers are delivering new lessons accompanied by relevant assignments to ensure scholars continue to learn new skills, subjects, and information. This approach ensures no time is lost in preparing scholars to reach their mission of going to and through college.
“Regardless of whether our physical school buildings are buzzing with scholars in classrooms, in the lunchroom or walking through our hallways, our St. HOPE teachers are fully committed to ensuring academic progress and success during this unusual time,” said Kari Wehrly, St. HOPE Chief of Schools. “We are not treading water or simply biding time until scholars are back on campus – this time is being used effectively for real learning as we continue to help close the achievement gap and drive our students, most of whom are students of color and from low-income backgrounds, on a road to and through college.”
In the spring, when schools were closed abruptly due to the state’s “shelter at home” orders, St. HOPE did an immediate pivot and launched a combination of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (independent at-home) instruction. They didn’t miss a day of school instruction and implemented a robust outreach effort to stay in contact with students and their families and ensure everyone had computers and technology support. The schools amended student IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) by creatively adopting ways to ensure all scholars have equal access to their distant learning curriculum. And St. HOPE teachers helped foster ongoing student connection through extracurricular activities such as “Friday Yoga Club” online, live read-alouds to students, virtual field trips and college tours, virtual talent shows, PE and dance videos, and online games through Kahoot and trivia to maintain camaraderie.
St. HOPE conducted outreach over the summer from staff, parents and students to determine how to build on that foundation and enhance the distance learning program this fall.
“I’m really impressed with St. HOPE’s distance learning program,” said Elesia Morris, a parent of three current St. HOPE scholars. “All of my kids have daily interaction with their teachers and peers and enjoy having a familiar school routine. So far, we’re off to a great start.”
All St. HOPE students were provided with Chromebooks and other technology support as needed. Additionally, local home services company Bonney provided a donation of 350 headsets to PS7 Elementary in order to send home a new headphone set to each elementary student as well. The laptop/headphone setup is allowing students to listen, see, talk, and stay engaged through the virtual platform.
“Our commitment at St HOPE is to put students first, providing high quality education that will change the life chances and life outcomes of low-income, Black and Brown students. We have high expectations, and we help our scholars meet them over and over again. As we embark on this new school year – that commitment remains the same, though our methods look different,” said Wehrly.
St. HOPE prioritizes the health and wellness of its entire student, family and staff community during this coronavirus pandemic, and will continue to follow guidance from the Sacramento County Health Department and state officials regarding when school campuses can reopen for in-person instruction.
“We know this isn’t easy, but we are so proud of our exceptional teachers who are going above and beyond to ensure this experience is positive and successful, and we are so impressed by and thankful for our scholars and their families who are doubling down on their own efforts and commitment to learning,” Wehrly noted.