Students, caregivers, and staff at Horizon Science Academy (HSA) Belmont Charter School are navigating the unknown territory of remote learning together, as one community, one team, and one family.
“Even before the pandemic, we put an emphasis on this model,” said Brittany Culkowski, community outreach coordinator at HSA Belmont, which is a member of Concept Schools and authorized by the Illinois State Charter School Commission. “We’ve always prioritized good communication, made sure parents are engaged, and identified students who are struggling and found ways to accommodate them.”
Good communication and being attuned to students’ needs and obstacles has never been more important, and they are the cornerstones of HSA Belmont’s remote learning program. The school is working to make as many resources available to families as possible, including having the school nurse and social worker check-ins where needed. ESL teachers continue to deliver lessons online, science teachers are virtually demonstrating experiments students can try using household items, and art and music teachers are providing enrichment opportunities remotely.
“We’re trying to make sure all the resources they had at school are still available to them,” said Culkowski.
Parents are an integral part of the learning process at HSA Belmont as well. Students and families can now access curriculum through the school’s remote learning website or through paper packets they collect each week. Remote learning is split about 50/50 between teachers and parents right now.
While parents are doing their part to help children excel at school while balancing work and household responsibilities, HSA Belmont is doing theirs to equip students with the materials necessary to succeed. In addition to teacher availability during the school day and working through assignments with their classrooms, HSA checked out Chromebooks to each of their students so they could continue learning at home. School personnel are onsite at HSA from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday for packet pick-up and to hand out Chromebooks to remaining students who need them. The school is also providing information for parents who may need help securing Internet access at home.
HSA Belmont teachers provide daily communication and feedback from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students in kindergarten through second grade complete lessons and assignments through packets and workbooks, while third through eighth graders complete lessons through Google Classroom, a platform HSA was already using.
Students have a set schedule for the day, which includes Zoom meetings with the whole classroom so kids can see one another and continue building camaraderie within their grade. The schedule rotates each day so that all subjects are covered and breakout sessions with the teacher help children master material. Throughout the day, students have time to interact with their teacher and classmates as well as complete work on their own or with their parents
Through it all, HSA’s priority has remained on a family-first approach. “Creating a community where we feel like one family and one team has really helped us as we navigate this new world of remote learning,” said Culkowski.
Horizon Science Academy Belmont is a public charter school serving Kindergarten through seventh grades that opened in 2013. HSA-Belmont provide their students with an innovative world class education, rich in math, science and technology. HSA focuses on preparing students to become bold inquirers, problem solvers and ethical leaders, with skills ready to meet the challenges of a competitive global workforce.