How Christopher House is supporting scholars during COVID-19 through e-learning

By: Danielle Castonzo

COVID-19 has shaken the entire world, but with the recent closure of Illinois schools and businesses, low-income families have been hit the hardest. These families face job insecurity, food insecurity, and anxiety about what the future will bring. 

But the 4,100 children and families in Christopher House know they’re not alone. Christopher House staff have quickly adapted its innovative education and immersive support model to provide e-learning, resources, and emotional support through the school closure.  

And their efforts are paying off. More than 90% of Christopher House scholars have been regularly completing assignments, and nearly 100% of Christopher House scholars have access to the at-home technology needed for success.  

“What I’m most proud of is how committed the students and families are and how the teachers have stepped up,” Veronica Johnson, Personalized Learning Specialist, said. “Everyone is working together to really be successful, everyone is doing their part and doing a good job with something that was completely foreign a month ago.”  

Christopher House is proud to share 5 best practices that have allowed our school to transition to e-learning and stay connected to scholars and families through COVID-19 and beyond:  

  • Provide scholars with tools for success. Every K-8 scholar was sent home on the last day of school with Chromebooks to ensure a smooth transition to e-learning. Additionally, family advocates have been in touch with every family to make sure they can get access to Internet and are being connected to the essential resources,  food, and financial assistance needed to maintain stability at home 
  • Maintain consistency. Each week, scholars receive assignments and lessons in every core subject, which are recorded by their teachers and posted on Google Classroom, a platform that allows teachers to post assignments, communicate through a message board, and host video chats. Scholars also receive pre-recorded weekly music and physical education lessons.  
  • Personalize e-learning plans. Each e-learning plan has been adjusted according to grade level and scholars’ personal strengths and areas of growth. Scholars are also assigned personalized math and reading computer programs with a required time limit.  
  • Stay in touch. Each teacher holds weekly office hours, which gives scholars the opportunity to video conference and ask any questions; parents are also encouraged to jump on the video call to connect with teachers. Additionally, English Language Learner and Diverse Learner teachers are in constant contact with scholars and provide extra support where needed. Parents can contact teachers and Christopher House staff at any time using the Remind app.  
  • Establish accountability. Teachers run weekly technology reports to see how much time each scholar is spending on the education platforms. For younger scholars, parents are sending pictures of completed activities to teachers.  

Although the path forward is uncertain, Christopher House is committed to supporting families and scholars every step of the way.  

“We are working hard to make sure students are receiving instruction and feel connected to the Christopher House community,” Shay Frey, Associate Director of Primary School, said. “Above all, we are working to make sure families feel supported by us. If a parent is feeling overwhelmed or like the work is too much, our answer is always to just do their best and let us know if there is anything we can do to support.”