Mott Haven Academy Charter School overcomes challenges of remote learning

Mott Haven’s Head of School and founder, Jessica Nauiokas
Photo courtesy Mott Haven Academy Charter School

A school located in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the nation has made a smooth transition to virtual learning.

Mott Haven Academy Charter School at 170 Brown Pl., a K-8 public charter school, serves students experiencing homelessness, poverty and food insecurity. Two-thirds of its students are in foster care or receive services through the city’s child welfare system.

Since shuttering its doors on March 13, it has managed to successfully provide quality remote learning education to its students amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The staff gave Chromebooks to 402 students and also purchased Wi-Fi hotspots for those that needed it.

“I’ve been so impressed with the creativity for our students and the creativity of Haven’s teaching team,” said Mott Haven’s Head of School and Founder Jessica Nauiokas. “I think the families have genuinely appreciated our desire and willingness to be as consistent with what we’re doing.”

Every child has a designated staff member they can call, text or email, while teachers use platforms like Facebook and Google Classroom to hold daily morning check-ins with students. Additionally, hundreds of hot meals have been distributed to students, while families are being checked upon daily to ensure long-term food and childcare needs are met.

Nauiokas explained while technology is important, they want kids do activities besides being on the Chromebook all day. They may have them read a book or work on a project with a sibling.

“We’re really trying to make the assignments meaningful,” she said.

The school has also supported the mental health of the kids. Mott Haven developed a family support system for its social workers and counselors, who continue to respond to individual crisis needs by offering teletherapy.

According to Nauiokas, the staff holds weekly Zoom meetings and speaks with each other every day. She noted they were looking forward to the planned spring break but kept a positive attitude when the state canceled it.

One person that has noticed the effort put forth by the teachers is Rocio Galvan, who has four kids at the school. Galvan commended Haven for everything it has done in the past month.

“If it wasn’t for Haven I couldn’t do it,” Galvan said. “This is what Haven is about. You’re going to get all the help you need.”

Fortunately, her kids know how to use the laptops, which makes things a bit easier for her. She noted how one of her children has a learning issue, yet the school has been very accommodating and has still provided his speech therapy.

At first she was a bit nervous about the whole process but now is comfortable.

“I just think Haven is amazing,” she stressed. “We’ve made it through.”

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