Community, that feeling of love and belonging. Of having a home and being welcome. Community is a priority at LEADPrep. We know learning happens more easily when students feel safe, connected, and genuinely care about one another. Being small and having one teacher per five students allows us to get to know each other, build relationships, and create community.
When we reflect back on 2020, a year filled with so much sadness and uncertainty, our commitment to community has stayed intact. And it started with a commitment to keeping our doors open. While many schools stayed remote this fall, LEADPrep met (and continues to meet in a hybrid model) in-person. One student laughed that our teachers had to use the design thinking process and create iterations of the schedule. We sure have been through a variety of in-person models this fall. All with health screenings, lots of cleaning and hand washing, masks on, and everyone six feet apart. We started outdoors with spotty wi-fi and ambient noise, followed by smoke creating poor air quality and rain that defied our canopies’ coverage. This did not stop us. We moved indoors with half the students attending on alternate days. And even with the new state restrictions, we still have one day a week of in-person for middle and high school.
Why are our teachers committed to being frontline workers? To taking temperatures daily and keeping kids distanced? To teaching triple the load simultaneously with one class split into two rooms and a third remote group? Because of the deep value we place on community.
As seventh grade Lucas says, “I get to actually really interact with my fellow students. Play a little bit. Talk. Something that feels a little more natural.”
Community members take care of each other. They sacrifice for the good of the whole. We know that social isolation is harming our youth. Mental health issues and disengagement are on the rise. Learning is on the decline. We won’t let our students fall into these statistics. Our engaging synchronous learning and sending home science lab kits help those who must stay remote. But we have continuously been determined to provide the social contact our tweens and teens need to thrive. As seventh grade Lucas says, “I get to actually really interact with my fellow students. Play a little bit. Talk. Something that feels a little more natural.” And we all know how two-dimensional and unnatural talking to a screen can feel! Kemi agrees, stating, “I get to be with people. I’m a people person.”
A benefit of our micro-school is multi-year relationships with classmates and teachers. Joining LEADPrep during a pandemic didn’t change that for Will, who started this fall. He values the in-person opportunity to make new friends and says, “It’s awesome because you get to see your friends. Amazing because you get to be outside and inside. It’s just wonderful. I love it.”
Good things do come in small packages. Like LEADPrep’s small size allowing us to meet in-person and have a big impact on students staying connected and learning during this challenging pandemic. We are very grateful to our front-line workers for their dedication to our great community of learners. Understanding the key role of community at LEADPrep is helping us all see clearly, and see us through 2020, together.