By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Thanks to the support of the Peace Neighborhood Center, Isaiah Lewis is feeling good about starting virtual classes with his AAPS classmates on Sept. 8.
“Peace helped bridge the gap,” said his mother, Verletta. “Isaiah needs structure, and Peace was really there for us this summer.”
Peace Neighborhood Center and Community Action Network are there year-round to support families, but this summer, each stepped up efforts to help prevent summer slide heading into a year that will begin solely online.
In fact, beginning in March, Peace and its two satellite offices became food distribution sites, loaned out some technology to families—including one where five children were trying to share one computer—and tutored students.
When it was time for summer school, Peace’s Executive Director Bonnie Billups knew the needs of neighborhood kids would be greater than ever—and that a Peace Summer Day Camp was not in the cards during a pandemic.
So Summer Day Camp plans were amended. Four days a week, about 55 kids would arrive at one of the three Peace centers, enjoy a free breakfast, and log on to a sanitized computer at 8:30 for their virtual lessons.
One of the goals was to make sure they became familiar with Schoology, the district’s new online software platform.
“We wanted to support kids, give them a routine,” said Billups. “From March to June, so much was at their own pace, especially with the older kids. We wanted to get our kids and parents ready for what would happen in the fall when they start virtual learning completely.”
“So it’s been a summer of supporting delivery of food to most vulnerable and summer of providing academic support to kids who we knew needed to maintain and be successful and ready for fall. These kids now are better prepared to go back to school whenever that happens.”
Billups said in one way it was wonderful to see the kids at Peace sitting at round tables on computers by themselves, studying.
“But at the same time, it was disheartening because normally those tables would be filled with kids laughing and talking with each other.”
Billups said he is encouraged to see the Peace-AAPS partnership works well in these abnormal times.
“Summer was a test run for the kids, families, and our staff,” he said. “We knew that the fall would bring about a greater need, and with us having to plan support for 150 young people.”
“The (AAPS) teaching staff needs to see us in partnership with them,” he added, “but it’s important that they don’t see us as the only ones who can solve problems.”
Peace staff learned about some “bugs in the system” which in turn were shared with Liz Margolis, Executive Director of Student & School Safety.
Margolis agreed that AAPS strategic partners are vital to the success of creating positive outcomes for students.
“We all strive to improve student supports especially during the time of the pandemic, the assessments shared by Peace and the Community Action Network (CAN) from the summer learning programs have contributed to the formation of the Reimagine Learning 2020-2021 plan,” she explained. “We are using this information as well to develop the Connections+ program that will offer student supports to many of the Strategic Partners starting this fall.”
The six-week Community Action Network summer camp may have been virtual this year, said Laura Amtower, director of CAN Art & Design, but staff made sure to incorporate lots of opportunities to get outside for some movement, fresh air, and socially-distanced relationship building.
Over the six weeks of camp, students learned all about our pleasant peninsula through the CAN Art & Design HOMEState curriculum. Each week revolved around a different theme—such as Shared Michigan, Creative Michigan, and Michigan Cares—with several projects and activities designed to get campers thinking about what being a Michigander (or Michiganian!) means to them.
Campers practiced math, geography, science, and reading skills with interactive lessons and individual challenges, as well as testing out online learning tools and strategies that students will encounter this fall.
They also embarked on a community clean-up scavenger hunt to tackle litter, explore the beauty in their backyards during nature walks, brightened our community centers with sidewalk art, and learn about pollinators while making and planting over 100 seed bombs, Amtower noted.