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Charters Lead: School Re-openings 2020

Posted on: September 25, 2020

Kara Bickhem May, Director, Art in Motion

To develop our remote learning plans, Distinctive Schools engaged in a thoughtful, reflective, and challenging design process over the course of three months. We established an internal task force, joined INCS working groups, curated an external advisory board, and spent weeks fine tuning the Distinctive Schools Community Care Plan. Our reopening plans are responsive to the needs of our staff and students. All Distinctive Schools students participate in remote learning; for those in need of a caring “office” space during the day, we have opened our doors to provide Community Care in our campus buildings.

As the proud director of Art In Motion, a creative arts charter school nested in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, I know all too well the impact Covid-19 and issues of social justice have had on our community. With an increase of nearly 12% over expected enrollment for the 2020-20201 school year, we did not and do not take this responsibility lightly: to protect our students and staff, and to reopen with a laser focus on safety and equity, while providing the best education possible. Having obtained an over 90% student engagement rate as measured by Summit Learning and attendance data in the spring, it was important to us to be able to maintain that level of participation, despite closure challenges.

We engaged our school community throughout the process of designing the Community Care Plan – we asked our families what they needed to feel safe, what they needed to be successful, and how they felt about returning to the classroom during a pandemic. Our teams mobilized to design and execute each phase of our plan – from operational planning, to preparing the school building, to engaging and training new staff in a virtual environment. We have had deeply reflective and iterative plans to ensure that we remain nimble and innovative in a challenging, changing environment.

We are working in partnership with The Common Ground Foundation, targeting our Freshman students, as well as with the Juvenile Protection Association for enhanced SEL and mental health services. We have continued to focus on access: to technology, to the support our team provides, and to challenging, engaging curriculum – in our classrooms or remotely.

With the support of Distinctive Schools and our CEO Scott Frauenheim, the Art in Motion Board and our Founding Partners, we are always willing to collaborate with the Chicago Public Schools in order to build the tomorrow that we all want for our precious Chicago young people.