It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens) This phrase comes to mind when thinking about the 2019-20 school year.
After low enrollment due to an unsuccessful attempt at reviving a junior high program in 2018-19, the 2019-20 school year started strong in terms of enrollment and maintained high enrollment – even through the school closure caused by the pandemic in the 4th quarter of the year.
Change Inc.’s financial picture steadily improved over the course of the year due to increased enrollment, investments in operations and focus of agency/school leadership and Board of Directors on financial data and use of data-driven decision-making.
In March, 2020, schools were closed across Minnesota by order of the Governor in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As with all other schools, GAP School staff “pivoted” to distance learning and in a matter of days had curriculum readied to be delivered through use of technology/internet. It was understood that distance learning would not be feasible for all students given the “digital divide” – lack of technology or access to the internet. GAP School identified two goals for the final two months of the school year: EQUITY – all students would have access to learning materials and teachers and ENGAGEMENT – keeping students and families connected to GAP School was viewed as the critical intervention.
We succeeded at both goals due to our collective ability to be gritty and nimble! We organized teams to deliver learning packets along with meal boxes to all students at their homes. This provided staff with the opportunity to see (socially distanced) students and parents, to assess for basic needs supports, and to support students to keep persisting in the distance learning environment. 145 students began Quarter 4 and 145 students were still enrolled and attending at the end of the quarter and school year. The average daily attendance rate during distance learning was 78% (many schools/districts reported between 50-60% engagement of students in distance learning.)
GAP School held a virtual Graduation on June 9 (posted on our Facebook page) for 72 graduates.
On May 25, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers and the cities burned. Black Lives Matter protests in 2000 cities and 60 countries is the largest protest movement in history. These events and concerns have also shaped the experience of staff, students and families in the 2019-20 school year. David Brooks, opinion writer, NY Times ,June 25, 2020, “5 Epic Crises All At Once” stated that we are dealing with health, economic, racial equity, social justice and political crises at the same time. And, they are all interrelated.
As GAP School staff, students and families prepare for the next normal and plan for three scenarios for school re-opening Fall 2020, we remain steadfast in our belief that “relationships are the key to change” and we will continue to uphold equity and engagement in our teaching and learning.
Read more in our Summary of Progress 2019-20 for the MNSAA School Strategic Plan (2015-2021).