There is a range of significant social challenges (for example, poverty, high unemployment, mental health, etc.) within our community. How does your model account for this inside and outside the classroom?
As in all of our schools, students at CWC Cincinnati will have a range of environments that they go home to. Our purpose is to realize the human potential of all children and families at our schools, regardless of their background. CWC Cincinnati has a staffing plan that prioritizes the development of individual relationships between staff and students so that we can truly understand each student’s needs. In addition, the CWC Cincinnati student success team (SST) will address plans for students identified as in need of additional supports within the classroom. The SST is an individualized, solution-oriented approach to assisting students with factors that are interfering with academic success. This team clarifies problems and concerns; develops strategies and organizes resources; provides a system for school accountability; and counsels the parent, teacher, and student. The team will consist of grade-level teachers who know the students best, instructional specialists, and the special education coordinator.
Lastly, the region will structure its support staff in a way to best meet the needs of the community. In Kansas City, for example, where they witness a high level of trauma in their student population, the school has a full-time social worker who identifies additional supports for students experiencing challenges outside of the classroom. In Los Angeles, schools have Community Coordinators–staff members who build relationships with families and ensure resources and supports are aligned with the needs of the school community.
How do you support students with special needs?
CWC Cincinnati’s mission is built on a commitment to diversity. This commitment explicitly includes ensuring that all students, including students with learning differences receive a full continuum of services. We have a number of structures built into our learning model which ensure that we meet the needs of each child. This includes multiple teachers and support staff in each classroom, small-group instruction and dedicated planning time each day for teachers to modify lessons to meet the needs of individual students. Our workshop model provides for substantial independent work time, which allows teachers to meet with small groups of students and with individual students. In addition the school will follow an inclusive model which allows special education staff to push into classrooms with one-on-one support when needed, rather than pulling students out of the classroom.
How are you funded?
CWC Cincinnati is a non-profit, tuition free, public charter school. It is funded primarily by state and federal resources. In Ohio, state and federal funding follows the child, so ultimately the parents decide where that funding is allocated by choosing where to send their child. CWC Cincinnati does not receive local real estate tax funding. Prior to the school opening and ongoing, CWC Cincinnati’s annual budget will be shared on their website.
Have you ever closed a school?
CWC is committed to excellence. With the support of the national network, in 2017 a local board made the difficult decision to close two schools in New York that did not meet our rigorous standards or maintain fidelity to our model. We have learned a lot of lessons from our challenges in New York and have opened four new schools in Los Angeles and Kansas City since then. Most importantly we have lengthened the amount of time that we spend engaging with a community prior to deciding to open a school (for example, we have been on the ground in Cincinnati for 18 months already) and we have strengthened our supports for school leaders and teachers so that they can launch a school in a region that mirrors the unique model that exists in Los Angeles and Kansas City.
What is your approach to student learning at home in the event of school closure due to things such as pandemics or cold/snow days? Do you have a virtual learning platform/technology?
Instructional leadership within each region make the ultimate decision on what distance learning looks like for students in the event of a school closure. During this unprecedented time when a global health crisis is forcing schools across the world to shift to distance learning, our school leaders have done their best to create a plan that accommodates the various needs of students, educators, and families. This includes loaning school laptops and hot spots to families who lack technology, translating school work packets into multiple languages, setting up grab-and-go meal centers at our schools, and creating a distance learning structure that can support both offline and online learning, as well as asynchronous (taped) and synchronous (live) learning experiences. We also must ensure that we continue the social emotional development that is a critical part of our school model–creating virtual spaces online where students and families can connect and process together. Our school-based staff is also closely tracking student participation and developing a network of support to follow up with families who might need additional resources in order to continue their learning. Feel free to take a peek at some of the ways that our Los Angeles and Kansas City regions are adapting.