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School network provides safe education with online program for Milwaukee’s Latino students

Carmen Schools of Science and Technology is ensuring their 2000 students have ongoing access to a quality education by providing technology, mailing instructional packets, taking learning online, and ensuring educators remain available for student and family communication during school closures.

The Milwaukee-based public charter school network provided more than 860 students in need of computers with Chromebooks and mailed instructional packets to the homes of over 500 families without internet access.

“It’s important for us to respond to the individual needs of our families during this time of crisis. We can provide a source of consistency through learning and offer our students and families a sense of community even while schools are closed,” said Jennifer López, Carmen’s Chief Executive Officer.

Despite major upheaval, students at Carmen Schools are staying on track for college. Prior to recent building closures, the school network made plans to shift instructional methods, working with students and families to overcome barriers and ensure access to online classrooms, internet service, or instructional packets aligned to classroom units and coursework. Carmen provided information regarding Milwaukee Public School food distribution sites and general information on how to minimize risk of infection from the CDC.

“My son is still able to learn from his teacher and guide his own learning from home. This is a difficult time, but our school community is doing everything to keep learning possible for students,” said Rosio Garcia whose son attends third grade at Carmen’s Stellar Elementary.

Instruction and Communication

Teachers are adjusting curriculum and teaching methods to ensure meaningful distance learning by utilizing the following tools:

  • Websites and Google Classrooms: Students access teacher-created websites that organize assignments
  • Continued Special Education: Special needs are continuing to be met via modified instruction, supplemental videos, and student check-ins
  • Lab Recordings: Students observe science labs and create their own hypotheses and notes
  • Study Sessions: Students convene and break out into study groups hosted by teachers
  • Videos: Younger students watch their teachers and drive their own learning
  • Carmen leaders and educators are ensuring families stay up-to-date and feel a continued sense of school community:
  • Families receive weekly communication from Carmen’s CEO, Jennifer López
  • Elementary students receive daily videos from their teachers; families can call and text teachers as needed
  • Middle and high school students and families are in constant communication with teachers via email, text, and video conferencing

For many students and families, distance learning also provides community. Students log on to see their friends. This week, students will be able to access streaming video lunch hours and morning assemblies at their usual times.

Responding to Staff Needs

The staff of the Carmen network have been given clear guidelines for instruction, family communication, and student feedback. The parameters allow teachers flexibility to engage students creatively while also arranging their days to meet personal and family needs.

Staff participate in regular school-wide video conferences to get updates and help troubleshoot. They have also planned virtual happy hours to connect as a community and celebrate their hard work. While it is unclear when school buildings will be reopened, Carmen Schools of Science and Technology continues to keep class in session for students and families.

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