By Cheri Harrington, Chief Operating Officer, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School
Every facet of our education system is being challenged by the complications of COVID-19, but our resilient, innovative, collaborative teachers and staff are working hard to ensure students receive a world-class education at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School.
Yu Ying’s first day of school is August 31, 2020. We’re doing 100% distance learning through October 2. Once it’s safe for students to return to campus, we will offer a blended learning model with both on-campus and distance learning. This will require students and staff to come back to campus in small cohorts, and when they’re not on campus, students will participate in distance learning from their homes.
Even though most of our students will learn from home at the start of the school year, we will provide on-campus care four days a week to some of our students–those whose parents are essential workers and have to work outside the house, students from low-income households or single-parent households, students learning English and with limited resources, and students with extenuating circumstances.
We would love to welcome all students back to campus, but one of our challenges is the physical limitations of our building. Like many charter schools, our building was not originally designed to be a school. We call a former monastery our home. While we love its architecture and beauty, our building has small hallways, classrooms, and other spaces, making social distancing a challenge.
Our team is working hard to create safe practices and install new technologies to help make our building safe. We have engaged experts to provide recommendations. We’ve stocked up on PPE, installed sanitizing stations, and soon will place disinfecting shoe mats at every door. We are also utilizing our three-acre campus so that students can learn (and play!) outside.
And I’m especially proud of the work we’re doing to clean the air inside our building. In 2014, we installed a state-of-the-art system to pump fresh air into each classroom to help keep students’ minds active while learning throughout the day; this system will also help keep the air cleaner for our students and staff given today’s circumstances. We also use hospital grade air filters throughout the building to reduce germs and allergens from the air. Additionally, we purchased several portable UVC units that sanitize the air by using UV rays to kill germs and viruses creating safer airflow throughout the school building.
From the clean air systems to disinfecting shoe mats, our team is analyzing every aspect of creating a safe and nurturing place for students and staff. We are also applying this energy and critical eye to our students’ learning.
Distance learning is not easy, especially when understanding the digital divide that exists in our city, but we are working to change that. We will provide each student with age-appropriate technology, so that they can learn from home until we are all back on campus full time. During these uncertain times, our amazing and talented educators will bring the best of learning to our students (wherever they are) and leverage technology to help them build on the strong foundation we have been cultivating for years.