A Look at EBIA’s Transition to Online Learning, but an Online Prom?

A guest post from Families in Action

Spring 2020 is supposed to be a celebratory time for the East Bay Innovation Academy (EBIA) students, educators and community.

The school’s founding students, who started in 7th grade when the school opened in 2014, are receiving their diplomas this year. They have been anticipating this for years, and now what will happen on graduation day is a giant unknown, as Oakland residents “shelter in place.”

There are lots of events planned to honor EBIA’s first graduating class, like a senior signing day to announce their college of choice and a spring banquet (much like a prom), that have now either been put on hold or are being attempted to move online.

For the EBIA leadership, this isn’t a time to mourn what could have been. They sprang into action, deciding to close the school on March 12, passing out over 70 Chromebooks to families without a computer at home and buying a bunch of zoom accounts for teachers, and moving all instruction online.

English, chemistry, math, one-on-one check-ins with students in special education classes — it’s all happening online now.

“We immediately began instruction online the next day,” said Alix Coupet, EBIA’s Director of College and Career Readiness. “We sent out new schedules to students indicating when teachers were available for office hours or giving a lesson. General teacher availability has been extremely high. It’s going well, we haven’t had any negative feedback so far.”

Not to say there haven’t been challenges so far. Some families don’t have wifi at home; students on their own have to manage their use of the Chromebook and troubleshoot any issues. As a tech-heavy school, though, the community lift at EBIA has been relatively smooth, and staff have been diligent about following up with families to ensure access.

“We’ve been really responsive to personal issues for families with access issues or who are having trouble making that adjustment,” Coupet said.

Students are also missing the chance to be social with their peers at school. Some students who suffer from anxiety in the classroom are enjoying the online classes. “They do get to be in a space that they created for themselves, and it doesn’t have to be in this public classroom setting,” Coupet said.

Overall, though, Coupet said the feedback from the EBIA community has been overwhelmingly positive so far. “Teachers are enjoying a wider array of digital tools to respond to students’ needs,” he said.

Right now the plan is to move all school events online, like students picking classes for next year. If graduating seniors can’t walk the stage when the big day arrives, there will be a virtual graduation. But a virtual school banquet? That unfortunately might be a stretch.

“A prom that’s online, well, I don’t know,” Coupet said. “Maybe I lack imagination on that one.”

Families in Action for Quality Education is a project focused on empowering parent and family leaders from East Oakland to advocate for access to quality schools. (Photo credit Ryan Cosens)

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