The Path to Reopening Our Classroom
In a June email to stakeholders, Seeds President & CEO Bonnie Entler shared a phased vision for reopening both the Seeds East (139th & Kinsman) and Seeds West (W. 25th & Clark) classroom locations. Citing the health and safety of students, tutors, and staff, the organization is taking a slow and methodical approach to reopening.
“When all other adult literacy programs in our area (and the nation!) closed, we remained open. The quick actions taken by every member of my staff ensured little to no interruption to the education of our students. In fact, other organizations began referring students to us. We’ve accepted nearly 70 new provisional students who are eager to make the most of the circumstances.
Our recent print newsletter (also available online) provides great detail about the challenges we faced in developing and launching a remote learning program in just two weeks. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it to fully grasp the enormity of this task.
WHAT WE MUST CONSIDER
Not a day goes by without the staff fielding questions about reopening, safety measures, and general concerns for social distancing – even moreso now that the State has begun easing restrictions.
I wish I could tell you we have it all figured out. Unfortunately, we don’t just yet.
With so many of our students and tutors in a vulnerable population, I will not risk their health. Like all of you, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the spike in cases since the State has started reopening. Without a decline in numbers, many of out stakeholders are fearful of returning.
There are, of course, a variety of additional considerations.
- Our classrooms are designed for close interactions between a tutor and a student, and the open floor plan means a lot of people are sharing the same airspace, even from across the room.
- Our stairwell and elevator are narrow, limiting the number of occupants.
- Social distancing and occupancy limits will prevent our open-schedule…a hallmark of our program.
Please know that these things are on our mind as we work toward a phased reopening. In the meantime, I want to provide you with our TENTATIVE reopening plan.
A TENTATIVE PATH FOR REOPENING
Although it is still a bit premature to announce dates, I want to give you an idea of the path our reopening will likely take. This is all subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid and far-reaching in its impact.
In accordance with the CDC and guidance from the state and federal governments, we have been acquiring PPE for staff, students, and tutors — and stocking up on cleaning supplies. [You can help.]
Staff will return to the classroom for several weeks first. We will continue our reconfiguration of the classroom, including plexi-glass barriers, removal of high-touch temptations (such as our coffee stations, lending library, and pencil supply), and structuring one-way movement throughout the classroom.
We have a growing number of students who need to be reassessed. Our provisional students (the 70+ admitted during our closure) will also need to take the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education). These students will be SCHEDULED to limit our numbers and allow for social distancing. PPE will be required and a robust disinfection protocol will be enacted.
Because of the large number of students who will need to be reassessed, this phase will take time. Weeks, not days. Perhaps a month, or more.
Sometime in the fall (fingers crossed!), we hope to reopen the classrooms in a limited capacity. Reduction in hours and limited days are two options that are still being considered. Remote learning will continue 4 days a week.
This phase is very much uncertain. Cases of COVID-19 must be on the decline. Both our students and tutors must have a willingness to come back to the classroom. Sessions will need to be scheduled. Ongoing disinfection protocols must be enacted. Additional staff may need to be hired. The list goes on and on. “
Entler also highlighted the success of the remote learning program, developed within just weeks of COVID-19 shutting classroom doors. The following initiative has allowed Seeds to maintain its morning, afternoon, and evening schedule.
Video Lessons – Each week, more than 2 dozen tutors create unique lessons, and present them live to students on video conference. The lessons are also recorded, and hosted on our website for students to access at any time.
“Table” Tutoring – By popular demand, we added a series of “table sessions.” A tutor is available to answer questions about math or reading and students can join the “table” at any time, asking one, or several questions about the topic. This most similarly mimics our classroom setting.
Tele-Tutoring – More than 60 tutors have been working every hour with students by phone. Tutors have copies of the curriculum, and often email supplemental videos to assist prior to the session.
The Digital Divide – Having volunteers willing to tutor by phone and video is one thing. Providing students with internet access and devices was an additional challenge. Read more about this on page 2 of the newsletter. Although students were initially slow to engage in these methods of learning, participation has increased enough that Seeds intends to continue remote offerings after we reopen, allowing us to reach even more adults for whom traditional education didn’t work. We actually have several Seeds students who moved out of state, but re-enrolled in our remote learning program!
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