On Aug. 30, nearly 450 excited and eager students flooded the hallways of Achieve Clinton Hill Charter School for the first time in 18 months. Masked up and ready to see and reconnect with their classmates, THIS first day back to school was like no other.
It was an exhilarating moment for teachers and staff too, who hadn’t seen their students in person since March 2020. As BRICK’s Chief Academic Officer, Chris Perpich, one of the school’s founders a decade ago, oversees the school’s curriculum and when Covid shut down schools nationwide, he shifted into high gear! With nearly 500 students as well as teachers and administrators depending on him, Chris was on the front lines, quickly pivoting to an online curriculum, to ensure uninterrupted, interactive instruction for students.
It wasn’t easy but together, the Achieve family stuck it out. Now 30 days into the school year, Chris is finally able to exhale (a little) and reflect on what it was like to lead a school during the pandemic.
It’s been a tough 18 months or so. What’s kept you motivated through it all?
It’s been a tough 18 months or so. What’s kept you motivated through it all? Kids. Although I am not as close to kids in this role as in previous roles, knowing that they are enjoying the learning they are doing really keeps me going. The impact the Academic Leadership Team has on what students experience each day is a great responsibility but also a great opportunity. Knowing that our program works and if we work it, kids do great helps me stay invested for the long term. This year, our first group of kinder kids is now in the fourth grade and seeing them walk through the
halls, tall and proud and knowing that I had a hand in what got them to that point allows me to go to sleep tired and wake up energized! Tell us about the first day back to school. Describe how you felt that day?
Tell us about the first day back to school. Describe how you felt that day?
Energetic! There was so much positive energy pulsing through students, families and staff on that day. The Achieve leadership team did a great job organizing for the day to ensure all students felt welcomed, seen and celebrated. Ultimately, everyone was so happy to be back to in person learning, but that also came with some nervousness about the health and safety guidelines. There were so many high fives, shout outs and air hugs and high fives it really felt like a celebration!
What was different about this first day of school compared to years past?
What was different about this first day of school compared to years past? Well, everyone was wearing masks, having their temperature checked and overly cautious. However, I think there was an overall sense of hope more so than I’ve seen on other first days. Although we’ve always had a community feeling, this year that feeling was palpable in that families and staff were really pulling together to just figure out what needed to be done.
Are there any remote learning takeaways that you have integrated or plan to integrate into in-person instruction?
Yes! We’ve had more visibility into student work than ever before and that’s what we are taking away. Using programs like Kami for student annotations and google classroom more will continue to allow teachers to quickly see how students are doing, give direct feedback and see improvements in real time. We’ve also refocused our attention on intentionally building relationships with students and are further reminded about the importance of doing that.
You went from in person to remote and now back to in-person after a year. How did you keep the students engaged and interested during multiple transitions? How did you keep your positive and proactive?
Ultimately, kids and staff wanted to be in school doing the work! So ensuring that our students had engaging lessons, ways to interact with their classmates and
teachers and also content that inspired them was what we made sure happened every day. Through the use of our online platforms, staff really challenged themselves to innovate to reach students and I think that really kept them positive, plus we were all in it together which helped connect people.