On Monday April 19, 2021 LAYC Career Academy formally reopened after more than one year of mostly virtual operations. What is our recipe for a strong reopening? Our reopening is built upon pilot programs, strong communication, and a thoughtful plan.
On April 19th, Career Academy started offering a hybrid learning program where students learn in person half of the week and virtually for the other half of the week with an option to remain fully virtual. Although this was our formal reopening, the school never really closed. Throughout the entire year of the lockdown, Career Academy first piloted and then implemented a variety of in-person opportunities for students. Our first pilot program was distribution of groceries and supplies, which happened right away. Then in the Fall of 2020, our medical assistant program came back. Our IT program followed in January with our program for English language learners coming back in February. With each of these pilot programs, we started small and were constantly debriefing about what went well and what could have gone better. Over the last year, we constantly refined our procedures so that they could be as safe and efficient as possible. Some key innovations included a self check in process for our medical assistant students, posting COVID screening questions in multiple languages, and installing wall-mounted thermometers to speed up the check in process.
Throughout the pandemic, Career Academy maintained strong communication. The school’s case managers, who are known as student support specialists or S3s, contacted students every day throughout the pandemic to check in on their physical, educational and mental health needs. The S3s also posed a new “question of the day” (QOTD) each morning. The questions ranged from fun things like asking about a favorite movie to more serious topics like: Would you take the COVID-19 vaccine? Would you prefer to return to school in person or remain remote? Do you have a thermometer at home? This strong communication helped the team to develop a reopening plan that meets the needs of students.
A THOUGHTFUL PLAN
Career Academy is reopening with a high-flex plan that allows students to participate with in-person learning, online classes with a live teacher, and independent online assignments and videos that can be completed at any time. This variety of options will ensure that students with jobs, caregiving responsibilities and those who are concerned about coming in person for health reasons can all receive a great education. The building has been transformed so that desks are more than six feet apart, PPE is available in each room, and all classrooms have moving cameras with speakers to accommodate in-person and virtual students at the same time.
After thirteen months of lockdown, our community is looking forward to coming together again in person. Career Academy staff view this reopening as an extension of the pilot programs that the school has initiated throughout the pandemic. We will try something new, debrief with our community, and use that feedback to innovate and develop an even better experience for students.