As the 2021-2022 school year comes to an end, let’s take a moment to reflect. For the past two and a half years, COVID-19 has impacted our community in a multitude of ways. Many of our students and staff have lost loved ones. Many of our students have had to take on full-time jobs in order to make up for lost income because of COVID-19’s impact. Our students have taken on significantly more responsibility, and frankly, had to grow up quicker.
We already knew that our students are resilient, but the way they’ve stepped up in the face of hardship continues to demonstrate their strengths. At the same time, the weight of added responsibility and emotional labor has taken its toll. As a result, Open School East and Step Up looked different the past two school years as we adjusted the inner workings of our programs to meet students and families where they were.
This year at Open School East (OSE), we developed a hybrid schedule that evolved through the entire year to gradually increase the number of in-person hours. We brought a trauma-informed approach to meeting our students where they are. We knew that immediately returning to a full in-person schedule would be incredibly hard on kids. This was proven by the increased behavior challenges in schools across the nation. Contrary to these national trends, OSE saw significantly fewer disciplinary events than pre-pandemic and compared to other schools. Our hybrid schedule allowed students to return to school safely.
Our community of students at Step Up have also experienced a multitude of changes over the past two years. As Step Up students experienced abrupt transitions to and from virtual schooling, the social-emotional and academic support Step Up Advocates provide became much more crucial. Like our students, our Advocates stepped up and found creative and accessible ways to support their students during a time when meeting in person posed its own challenges. When students attend large high schools, it is easy to fall through the cracks. Even the most amazing teachers were not able to provide the one-on-one support necessary to catch up students who had vastly different levels of engagement with distanced learning. Step Up was there to provide that one-on-one support to help students catch up and re-engage in school.
In the midst of all this change, the warmth of our community has shined through and persevered. Our students and families have leaned into connection, while our staff continues to reflect on our community’s needs and build systems to meet those needs. Thank you for going on this journey with us.