The KIPP charter network, one of New York City’s largest, will begin the school year fully online.
Students will learn remotely at least through September and then switch to a hybrid model, with students rotating days of in-person studies, parents learned Friday. Concerns from families and staff about whether it’s safe to return to classrooms are driving the decision, said Jane Martinez Dowling, chief external affairs officer at KIPP NYC.
“Our priority was really just to keep our teachers and the students and staff healthy,” she said.
The network, enrolling almost 8,000 students at 15 city schools, joins a list of other New York City charter schools that will not return to school buildings at the start of the school year.
KIPP, like many other charter schools, begins the school year earlier than the city’s public school district. Classes will kick off on August 24. Typically, school leaders have access to their campuses throughout the summer to prepare. But many KIPP schools are located in district buildings, which have been closed this year because of the coronavirus. That gives school leaders and teachers little time to get ready to welcome students with needed safety measures in place.
“We just didn’t think we were going to be ready,” Dowling said.
The network is also retooling its online learning plans, trying to take into account feedback from families. The biggest takeaway from surveys, Dowling said, was that families want more individualized feedback for their children while learning remotely.
KIPP officials say their schools will focus on mental health, offering teletherapy with counselors and additional support to families who need help tracking down and accessing food or other vital assistance. Extra effort will be put into catching students up by building schedules that allow for one-on-one time with teachers.
Dowling admitted there are still many details to be worked out. For example, the network is weighing how it could offer child care options for families in need.