Houston Chronicle: Houston area charter schools maintain high expectations despite coronavirus-caused challenges

Aug 17, 2020

Houston’s public charter schools are opening their virtual doors for their 2020-2021 school year, despite the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public charter schools in the Greater Houston area serve more than 69,000 students with more than 38,000 living within Houston ISD’s boundaries. Many public charters serve high rates of Black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students while focusing on preventing dropouts.

Gulfton’s Étoile Academy focuses on grades five through eight with high academic expectations for their students. Supportive, targeted interventions for all their students are frequent and required, and students learn French in the seventh and eighth grade, with the opportunity to travel to a French-speaking country, administrators said.

After kicking off a virtual start to the school year today, the district is set to begin in-person education on Sept. 8.

“We have kept busy focusing on our mission to provide every student with a world-class education and practiced out skills with virtual summer school serving over 90 students that opted in to continue their education,” said Founder and Superintendent Kayleigh Colombero. “We are thrilled to start a robust virtual learning program on (Aug. 17). We are also eagerly awaiting the return to in-person learning — our desk shields are already in place.”

Each week, Étoile Academy will assign students coursework on Google Classroom and give them short lesson videos to watch. Students will need to complete exit tickets and assessments to pass their classes with the support of teachers on Google Hangout throughout the day to answer questions.

Bloom Academy, located in Third Ward, is a tuition-free public school that prepares students to make a positive impact in their community, administrators said. After opening in August 2019, the school will add a new grade level each year until they reach the fifth grade. In the 2020-2021 school year, Bloom will have kindergarten, first and second grade students.

Bloom students return to virtual education on Aug. 24 and remain online for at least the first four weeks of instruction.

Bloom incorporates chants, songs and movement breaks throughout the day to ensure students are engaged and looking forward to school — even on Zoom — with regularly scheduled “Wiggle Breaks”.

“We know how incredibly important it is to ensure that our students, all of whom identify as Black and Brown, do not get left behind emotionally or academically,” said Courtney Sales, Founder and Head of School of Bloom Academy. “Our mission is to ensure our elementary scholars are prepared for middle school, high school, and college and to lead lives of positive impact in their communities, remains unshaken.”

“Bloom Academy is not our building — it’s our relentless pursuit of excellence by our team members and by our students no matter the setting.”

Founded in 1996, Raul Yzaguirre School for Success was one of the first open-enrollment charter schools approved by the Texas State Board of Education. The school was established by the Tejano Center for Community Concerns to provide a college preparatory educational experience for students in Southeast Houston and their second campus in Brownsville, Texas.

“At Raul Yzaguirre Schools for Success, we serve children who need our support the most. Our administrators and teachers are going above and beyond to support our students and families with the tools they need – they’re showing why they are heroes,” said Adriana Tamez, Superintendent of Raul Yzaguirre Schools for Success.

Students began virtual learning at RYSS on Aug. 12, with a hybrid instructional model beginning on Sept. 8.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when Bloom would return to in-person education. 

Originally published on https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bellaire/schools/article/Houston-area-charter-schools-maintain-high-15490673.php