By: Abby Duff
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen school closures across the country. The closures are taking their toll on student’s education, attentiveness, and mental health. Many schools have reopened their doors for the 2020-2021 school year, while others have chosen to go completely online, however that decision has been more difficult to make for schools like Sprout U School of the Arts in Trenton, NJ.
Sprout is an institution that values diversity and embracing culture, and the way they learn has been very hands-on, so the pandemic has been a major shock to their usual system. However, after getting a chance to speak with Danielle Winslow, known by her students as “Miss. Danielle,” the founder and principal of the school, it is clear that they are well-underway this school year, and are operating in the best, most normal way they possibly can.
At first, she said it was a challenge to develop an attainable AND affordable plan that could accommodate all of the students at school, as there is a wide age range stretching from preschool to high school. The majority of the students were unable to afford computers and headphones to support the new virtual learning environment, however generous community donors were able to provide them with the proper technology for classes. Because of this, students can learn online both at the school and remotely if need be.
Another issue she encountered while developing the reopening plan was that many of the teachers resigned for fear of getting COVID. Because of this, she had to find an affordable, yet an engaging way for her students to continue their education both online and as normally as possible. Ms. Winslow was able to receive a grant from Pearson Online Academy, an online school program that provides both live and self-completed lessons. This program allows everyone to keep learning in person, as well as work from home on days off.
The students have class at the school every day except Wednesday. On Wednesdays, a cleaning service comes in and deep cleans the building to prevent the spread of COVID among the students and teachers at Sprout, and so far they (thankfully) have had no cases this year!
Even though the circumstances are different this year, Ms. Winslow has still found ways to allow her students to continue pursuing their artistic and creative passions. A few days week groups of students travel to dance lessons, and other days, an organization brings in instruments for the students to use and learn how to play at the school. They continue to perform plays and musicals, socially distanced of course, and the spirits are still high at Sprouts. I have been volunteering at Sprouts for the past few months, and have seen firsthand how optimistically and gracefully Miss Danielle and her students are handling this transition year!