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#AskExcelinEd: How are charter schools actively serving their communities in 2020?

• Sam Duell

During the pandemic, charter schools across the country are actively supporting their communities by providing services that go beyond curriculum and student instruction. Here are seven inspiring examples:

  1. Meals delivered to students’ homes. A few weeks ago when families in Escondido, CA, were unable to leave their homes to pick up meals from their local school, Epiphany Prep Charter School began delivering meals to students’ homes. The San Diego Union Tribune aptly compared the “Feeding the Heart and Mind” campaign with UberEats for school meals.
  2. Laptops delivered to students’ homes. When Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy shifted to distance learning in March, students were supposed to check out laptops. But 50 laptops went unclaimed, so the school’s administrator, Javier Chaparro, decided to deliver them directly to students. He went door-to-door to do just that.
  3. Checking in on students every day. Rocketship Public Schools, a national network of charter schools based in San Jose, CA, developed the CareCorps – groups of four educators each assigned to check in with every student every day. By 12 pm, the responses and needs are analyzed so that student support can actively be addressed.
  4. Providing childcare for first responders and essential workers. We all rely on first responders and essential workers who often rely on schools for childcare. When schools were closed, children still needed support while their parents worked to save lives and sustain communities. IDEA Public Schools in Austin, TX, stepped in early to provide essential childcare for those heroes.
  5. Providing virtual meetings with mental health counselors. There is no question that students and families have experienced trauma in the last few weeks. Lost jobs. Health crises. And long confinements in close quarters. The Miami Times Online noted in early April that KIPP Miami provided virtual meetings with mental health counselors for students who wanted them.
  6. Adjusting health benefits for teachers to cover COVID costs. Caring for students means caring for teachers, too, as the effects of pandemic challenges are not limited only to students. Brooke Charter Schools in Boston, MA, took steps to support teachers when they adjusted their health benefits to cover some anticipated additional healthcare costs.
  7. Making PPE for healthcare workers. When it became clear that the 3D printers at Horizon Science Academy Columbus High School would not be used for student projects for the rest of the school year, teachers began using the materials to make masks for health care workers. Through their efforts, the teachers provided more than 250 masks to Ohio health care workers.

From Massachusetts to Miami, from San Diego to Mesquite, public charter schools are working hard to care for the health and well-being of students, teachers, families and the communities in which they reside.

For many more uplifting stories about public charter schools and how they are responding in the time of COVID – check out the collections from our partner, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

About the author

Sam Duell

Before Sam joined ExcelinEd as the Associate Policy Director for Charter Schools, he was a special education teacher, a school and central office administrator, the Executive Director of School Choice at Oklahoma’s department of education and the Managing Director of OPSRC’s Education Collaborative. In every position, Sam worked creatively to meet student needs. He founded the Integrated Support Program at Fischer Middle School in San Jose, California to increase the number and percentage of students with learning disabilities who have access to the general education classroom. He was the first administrator of Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the authorizer for online schools in Oklahoma. And he co-founded a statewide afterschool network called the Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning to organize and advocate for expanded learning opportunities after school and during the summer. Sam’s current interests include charter schools and their role in a functional, thriving democracy.