As the weeks unfolded, Nate and his team rolled out distance learning, acknowledging that some students were able to move right along, while others needed more significant educator intervention. In a regular year, Covenant educators face the constant battle between work and school, as many students are either responsible entirely for their own finances or are a financial stakeholder in their family. For Nate, this usually means working with local employers to get working students hours better suited to the school day, or even working with parents to help them get a higher-paying job, so that their child doesn't have to financially pitch in. Under these new circumstances, where students have essentially unlimited available working hours, many Covenant educators have adapted their office hours to night time, ensuring they are available to help working students when they can fit in classwork.
Unfortunately, the emotional distress remains for many students - and many Detroit residents - as the case and death toll rise, leaving many with high anxiety about their personal future and the future of their families. For Nate's team, this anxiety wears heavy on schoolwork, and they have continued to implement emotional wellness checks week after week to help students cope.
Right now it does not look or feel like school at all. Yes, my teachers and staff have been reaching out to me and keeping in touch to make sure I am ok. Yes, I have talked to some of my classmates. I do have a tablet to complete school work, but my mindset has not been on school lately.
- Kalyn B., Covenant House Academy East student
For other students and families, the hard work of Nate's team has made distance learning possible and successful.
They provided my son with internet access and online learning tools during this time of crisis. They have reached out to me and my son and have made us feel like they are here for us during this tough time.
- Sara M., Covenant House Academy East parent
Though the situation feels grim, as educators and students continue to weather the pandemic, there have been many lessons learned through this process, and Nate is confident those lessons will have meaningful impact next year and beyond. Most importantly, it has been a key insight into which skills students may still be lacking as they graduate and pursue college or work.
Every one of our students gets a school email address when they register at Covenant. The first thing we did when the pandemic broke was attempt to contact them all via email - which we quickly learned was not the way to go. These kids live on social media, texting, etc. - but when it comes to more professional modes of communication, we found that they still had room to grow, especially those students who had just came to our school this year. Our goal, in serving a highly at-risk population, is that when they graduate, they will have the basic skills necessary to achieve in their next step, whatever it might be. I think we had some assumptions that through regular classwork, they were gaining proficiency with the Microsoft Suite, Google Suite, email, etc., but that's not what we've found. Moving forward, that will be part of the curriculum - it's simply necessary for today's workforce.
- Nate King, Covenant House Academy East Principal