Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year, an academic year that is unlike any other we have experienced before in the Crescent City Schools network, in our state, and in our country.
Although there is much to share about our priorities and plans for this coming academic year, I first want to say how proud I am of the staff, students, and parents of the Crescent City Schools network for their collective response to the challenging circumstances all of us in schools faced in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our CCS schools were among the first in the city and the state to prepare distance learning materials, distribute food and other necessities to families, and provide online academic and social-emotional support to students. You can read more about our amazing staff in articles in The New Orleans Advocate/Times Picayune and The Lens.
As we begin the 2020-2021 school year, our teachers’ commitment to providing high-quality, virtual education is evident. Although meeting each student where they are and pushing them to improve is challenging in the best of times, virtual instruction presents new complications. Our staff continues to evaluate and improve digital learning by asking tough questions, such as “What classroom expectations need to be in place to ensure that all students have a voice in a Zoom session?” and “How can we teachers continue to provide differentiated instruction digitally so that all students, whether advanced or in need of more support, receive the attention they need to be successful?”. This is the challenging and rewarding work of education, albeit with a new layer of complexity.
During this time, when schools and students are relying heavily on digital instruction, Crescent City Schools is particularly grateful for its new partnership with Verizon. In January 2020, Crescent City Schools was awarded a Verizon Innovative Learning School grant. This paved the way for our network to receive 1,250 student Chromebooks, each equipped with built-in internet connectivity, to use in our 5th through 8th grades. Although we did not know at the outset of our partnership with Verizon just how much our students would depend on these computers in the near future to connect with their teachers, access instruction, and engage with their peers, we are tremendously thankful for the provision of these computers at such a time as this as it has enabled us to be an organization where every PreK-8th grade student has access to their own device for learning.
And even as our teachers continue to hone their digital teaching skills, our school leaders are preparing for the physical return of students to our school buildings. Following the Roadmap laid out by NOLA Public Schools, all schools in the Crescent City Schools network will resume in-person learning by the end of September. Our network began planning in May for the return of students even before we knew when exactly it would happen, so we are prepared. Because the safety of our staff and students is paramount, we have implemented many protocols, policies, and trainings over the last few months. This includes mandatory face coverings for staff and students, hand sanitizing stations, limiting interactions between students to specific cohorts, and many more precautions. Crescent City Schools is working closely with Yanti Turang, the Deputy Director of the COVID Medical Monitoring Station in New Orleans and an infectious disease specialist, to provide ongoing support to our network throughout this academic year.
At Crescent City Schools, we believe that our students deserve a joyful, lovely learning environment, and we are excited to (safely) welcome our students back to our school buildings. Whether a student is in kindergarten at the newly renovated Tubman Montessori campus, an aspiring scientist at Paul Habans Charter School, or a scholar-musician at Akili Academy, we know that school plays an important role, not only in growing their ability to read, write, analyze, and compute, but also in fostering the development of their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for their future.
Whatever opportunities and challenges this year holds for us at Crescent City Schools, I know that our students, staff, and families will face them together.
Kate Mehok, CEO