Thursday, June 11, the 100 Black Men of Chicago brought us another informative virtual town hall meeting hosted by reputable broadcast journalist Darryl Dennard entitled The Impact of COVID 19 on Youth Education and Resources for Parents and Students.
The Town Hall featured top education leaders and mentors, Dr. Janice Jackson, EdD CEO of CPS. Dr. Sybil Madison-Boyd, Deputy Mayor Education and Human Services City of Chicago, Tim Turner, Mentoring Chair of 100 BMC, Jeffery Beckham V.P. Partnership of Chicago Scholars. Dr. Michael McGee, MD, MPH, FACEP – ER Physician and COVID Chair, 100 BMC Health and Wellness Committee. Dr. McGee begins with an update on the importance of practicing safe distancing and wearing PPE and giving us some statics of COVID-19.
“Sunday, we hit two million COVID cases in the United States. On Sunday, we also had the second-lowest of cases in 24hrs since March 26. Daily deaths are going down, but Black people are still dying at larger rates than any other people.”
Dr. McGee touches on the fact that Black people are dealing with four pandemics: Covid19, firearm violence and homicide, economic recession, and racial injustices. Many people have questioned why people are out protesting and not concerned with COVID because they are upset about where we are and how we continue to get mistreated.
We will not know the results of COVID-19 since protesting for another couple of weeks, but Dr. McGee says that we must continue to focus on protecting ourselves despite the protesting. We must social distance, all wear masks, get tested before and after protesting, self-quarantine for fourteen days if you have symptoms and self-quarantine until you get tested, and the results are negative.
We also cannot look beyond the fact that 1.38 billion youth in the United States have been affected by the Pandemic over the past few months.
The impact and what the City is doing
Dr. Jackson, the CEO of CPS, spearheads the efforts of close to 400,000 students and staff in Chicago. She says, “We intend to start virtual summer school in a couple of weeks, which will allow us to start planning for the fall. We are required to meet CDC guidelines in terms of social distancing, and health and safety, along with education, is a primary focus. We are hard at planning our reopening strategies which parents will hear about in the next couple of weeks.”
Dr. Jackson says the most impactful thing that happened during the Pandemic was CPSs ability to give devices to their students, but Internet connectivity was a huge issue. CPS also distributed mobile wifi units to homeless students and students with temporary living situations. Dr. Jackson says,
“Now, we are trying to make sure that everyone has access to the internet, which is a fundamental right. Our hope after COVID is to make sure people see the internet is like having essential utilities like water, gas, and lights.”
Students will keep their devices over the summer.
CPS is preparing for multiple scenarios for the fall, including a hybrid model for students to be in a classroom and for some students to e-learn at home. “For fall, we are putting together a contingency plan for students who will be in school and for students who will be e-learning. Putting in contact tracing so that if there is a spread of COVID, we can trace it and slow it down. We have a task force who has been working on this for the past six months.” CPS wants to make sure kids have similar learning experiences across the City. Dr. Jackson notes that since e-learning has started, CPS has strengthened their relationships with parents and wants to encourage parents to stay engaged even when things go back to normal.
Dr. Madison-Boyd touches on what the city park districts are implementing for the summer.
“All field houses and libraries are open, and summer day camp registration has started, which means summer programs will begin July 6. CDC guidelines are our number one priority, and park programs will have significant reductions in the number of opportunities we can offer to families and children.” With many parents and youth counting on summer programs, the City was committed to making sure that there would be programs open and running with several set to be virtual. “We are committed to having the summer jobs program, and applications are open at onesummerchicago.org.”
There is a small decrease in the number of jobs. One Summer Chicago is for youth 18-24 years old, pays $14/hr, is a six-week program, and almost all jobs will be virtual.
Jeffery Beckham of Chicago Scholars talks about how the Pandemic has impacted the organization.
“We reached out to our scholars to see what they needed. A lot of our scholars were personally impacted by COVID 19. Families are trying to navigate e-learning while still working full time and dealing with sick family members, but a lot have persevered.” Many of the scholars have made their college decisions, and now a lot are uncertain of what the future looks like. Chicago Scholars has a new class of 600 doing virtual orientation in June. Beckham says, “Because our internship program has been canceled, we are trying to figure out what we can do for our scholars to prepare so that they can gain real-world experiences.”
Tim Turner talks bout his mentees and how things have changed for the program at 100 BMC.
“Our Mentoring program met at four different sites every Saturday from 10 am to noon, so we had to readjust to support our mentees. We are now using zoom at the same time, giving relevant information for the times. Speakers are coming in to talk about education resources,
Financial advisors are talking about the economic impact and advising to help with finances. Counselors are helping with anxiety, and there are times when there is no plan, just the freedom to talk.”
On the need for technology
During this town hall, an important topic was the need for technology and how families need to understand that it is a basic necessity. Beckham says, “Organizations need to use platforms that are mobile device friendly. 90% of our students will use a mobile phone first because they are less expensive.”
Dr. Madison-Boyd mentions that young people try to use their phones to connect, but data plans do not support it, and students cannot do simple things like print at home. “I think parents are starting to understand now the importance of technology and the need. We have to instill in our caregivers the necessity of having access.”
Dr. Jackson says, “We are clear that nothing replaces a highly qualified teacher in front of students, but because students are using technology, naturally we have to combine the two. We have to be just as outraged when kids do not have a laptop or similar as we were in the 80s or 90s when they did not have a textbook. Moving forward, this is something we are going to continue to prioritize in our budget.”
Solutions and advice for social distancing
Each representative gave their advice on what students and parents can do during social distancing. Turner says, “Students should use this opportunity to invest in themselves and develop 21st- century skills. 21st-century skills are communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Some top Universities are making this content available online.”
Dr. Madison-Boyd says, “High School students can access college courses at city colleges of Chicago, and cps can access them for free. The City has a website, mychimyfuture.org, a hub where people can explore their interests, and there are links for job opportunities. We are also building a cache of mental health resources.”
Beckham says, ” Students need to give themselves time to process and think about what’s going on. Journal and find programs to provide support like Ladies of Virtue and 100 BMC. The Calvary is not coming to save us. We are the Calvary!”
Dr. Jackson concludes, “A great book to read is, It is Ok Not to be Ok. Arm yourself with information, so our actions are guided rightly. Go to our website to get information from us that goes beyond what a school will send out. Sign up at cps.edu, and you will find information outside of educational services. Follow us on all of our social media. We also have access to virtual High School for those who want to make up credits or do accelerated learning for free. Our Summer Melt Program helps students who are transitioning to college. We are empowering counselors to help with seniors throughout the summer in this program.
You can watch this entire town hall on 100BMCs Facebook page.