This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters
When students used to walk to Aurora’s Paris Elementary, the principal and other staff greeted them to music at the entrance. A weekly assembly like a pep rally, recognition of students and staff, and reminders of school values — all contributed to creating supportive enthusiasm at school.
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“It’s that spirit of we love you, we see you,” said Susan Gershwin, community school coordinator. “That’s just our school culture, so it’s like, now how do we carry that on?”
Now that school buildings have been closed for the rest of the school year in Aurora, Paris leaders are trying to bring back some of that feeling.
Paris is wrestling with the same challenges that face many schools that serve students from low-income households. Educators are trying to create ways for families to continue to feel connected to the school, reaching out by calling and texting, and trying to recreate parent groups and after-school student activities in a virtual space. Invigorating students about school has been one of Paris’ strategies to boost achievement.
Last Friday, the school tried its first virtual assembly on Google Hangouts.
“We have had such a large number of requests,” Principal Antonio Vigil said. “Our scholars and families are really desiring an attempt to connect.”
The 30-minute video call had more than 130 students and staff members. There were some glitches. Teachers had to call out individual students to mute, but not all knew how. The principal accidentally muted himself at the start. Were the unfamiliar names trying to join the call strangers or maybe students using a parent’s Google account? And when everyone had their mics on, kids complained about the bad audio.
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