On Friday, October 9th, St. Louis Public Schools and Patrick Henry announced that in the Second Quarter pre-K through 6th grade would transition to blended learning; meaning families now had the option of attending school in-person or remain virtual. In the end, 2/3 of families opted to return to in-person learning. This meant Patrick Henry Staff had five days to prepare the building for over 150 students to return the following Monday. In a typical year, preparing for the first day of school is a daunting task for teachers and administrators. Every classroom, all of the hallways, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, the restrooms, etc. need to be prepared for the return of students. During the pandemic, social distance requirements meant the additional burdens of installing signs, floor markers, moving furniture, redesigning procedures, and training staff to execute new procedures. Having the first day back to school happen while school is in session meant that all the preparation needed to be accomplished while virtual learning continued. Teachers and staff would only have two days without students to prepare a school that has been empty since last March. It was ‘all hands on deck’ time. During this time of rapid change for staff, students, and families, HOME WORKS! stepped up.
An all-call went out to volunteers that Friday afternoon. By Monday, a small army had rallied and signed up to support teachers and staff in any way they needed. 12 sets of hands was a welcome addition to the staff of 20 teachers and administrators. All day Thursday and Friday volunteers were in and out of Patrick Henry moving furniture, organizing books and supplies, taping social distance markers, and cleaning. HOME WORKS! and our network stepped up to support the transition to virtual learning through more than just volunteer support.
“A classroom is just not a classroom without a rug,” says Ms. Hammock a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Patrick Henry. “During the deep cleaning that happened in March, my classroom rug was taken. A rug is critical for my classroom to feel like home for my students.” Through the generosity of donors around St. Louis, we were able to not only donate Ms. Hammock’s classroom a rug, HOME WORKS! provided a total of eight rugs to Patrick Henry. It’s amazing what something that was collecting dust in storage one week is doing for psyche of a classroom the next week. After seven months away, with strange new rules and procedures, these rugs have gone a long way to making students and staff feel at home at Patrick Henry.
Blended learning means that students are participating both virtually and in-person. For teachers, this means they are now teaching to three audiences: the classroom of students in front of them, students who are in the school but participating virtually from a separate classroom, and students logging in from home. At schools with budgets, teachers were provided with stands to hold their iPad at a variety of angles, allowing them to teach in front of the class with the camera on them for virtual students. Thanks to the generous support of donors, HOMEWORKS! was able to outfit 18 classrooms with teacher iPad stands. We were also able to outfit classrooms with extension cords and chargers. Allowing for students to be uninterrupted and socially distanced when charging iPads.