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EHS Team Ensures Critical Learning Despite COVID Challenges


When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and early-childhood centers in March, Boys Town Louisiana's Early Head Start Program had to quickly adapt its model to make sure our 168 infants and toddlers (0-3 years of age) could finish the school year outside of the classroom.

Nicole Grace-Franklin, Education & Disabilities Coordinator for Boys Town Louisiana's Early Head Start Program, has worked with colleagues to develop creative strategies to keep learning opportunities possible, despite school closures. The EHS Center Partners have created YouTube channels for weekly educational videos. Each one also holds weekly live sessions via Zoom. The Boys Town Education team creates and distributes weekly lesson plans for center staff to follow. These lesson plans include activities for parents to do at home. Boys Town also distributed packets of educational activities that included crayons, markers, Play-Doh, construction paper, glue sticks, chalk, and books, in addition to monthly care packages with household essentials. It's a massive effort.

While these efforts have allowed many of our students to continue learning outside of the classroom environment, technology access continues to be a major barrier for some families. According to Melissa Wetzel, also an Education & Disabilities Coordinator for the program, “Many of our families either don't have or don't have enough devices for virtual education." Due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic locally, a staggering 50% of our New Orleans EHS parents faced sudden unemployment. In addition to the financial strain, “the older siblings' education takes priority over our younger EHS children when accessing technology for education," Wetzel said. Boys Town is working individually with each family to identify technology solutions and offer learning resources not solely dependent on technology. 

While everyone hopes that students can return to the classroom this fall for a new school year, Boys Town is prepared to continue virtually. The teacher pre-service week, ahead of the new school year, will be presented 100% virtually and will include additional training on health and safety protocols. Bi-annual home visits with families will be held virtually as well. All EHS learning centers will continue to create weekly instructional videos, even if centers are open, to benefit any children on the growing EHS waitlist who cannot be enrolled given space limitations.

To learn how you can help contribute to the EHS program, please email or call 504.293.7907.