The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools across the nation to rapidly shift from traditional classroom learning to going fully online in just a matter of weeks. For many schools, this transition has been both challenging and disruptive for teachers and students alike.

But at Ingenuity Charter School, high-quality, focused distance learning is business as usual.

Founded in 2015, Ingenuity Charter School offers underrepresented San Diego high schoolers a blended learning program that meets their unique lifestyle needs. This flexible schedule helps students to graduate high school who would not have had the opportunity to do so in a traditional school setting.

Ingenuity students complete most of their schoolwork online through Edgenuity, Ingenuity’s curriculum provider that is available 24/7. Students are also required to meet face-to-face with a teacher at least twice per week at a resource center.

“This hybrid-learning approach has always been beneficial to Ingenuity’s students because it supports them working at their own pace,” said Nicole Clayton, Ingenuity instructor of three years. “But during the COVID-19 closure, our program has been even more beneficial for students because they are able to continue completing their work without any interruption.”

The school’s investment in high-quality learning platforms gives Ingenuity students an advantage in these difficult times.

“The nature of our school’s program puts us a few steps ahead of other schools in terms of preparedness,” said Elizabeth Modesto, Ingenuity education specialist. “Our students’ learning has not been disrupted, and our instructors are used to regularly communicating with students who are not physically present.”

For example, Ingenuity’s communication tool, Schoology, has features that allow teachers and students to communicate virtually with total ease. Instructors can provide one-on-one mentoring from afar and students can also contact their teachers virtually whenever a question arises.

Schoolology has also made it effortless for students to swap their required in-person weekly instructor meetings with online appointments.

“Obviously, virtual meetings are replacing in-person meetings for the remainder of the closure,” Clayton said. “In these meetings, students can get tutoring, take exams, or simply just check in and get extra assistance with any of their other academic needs.”

And because Ingenuity already had these strong distance learning systems in place, instructors have the bandwidth to supplement their online lesson plans with personalized assistance for students who need it.

“Edgenuity lets our teachers personalize their curriculum by embedding additional instruction and materials into lessons to help students master concepts,” Clayton added.
Ensuring access and equity while being remote

One important question being raised across the nation right now is, how are underrepresented students ensured the reliable tools and access to distance learning during lockdown?

In some cases, there is not a clear answer.

But from the very beginning, Ingenuity’s top priority has been to provide students with equitable access to top-tier remote learning.

“Ingenuity has always ensured that students without computer or internet access at home have access by loaning out Chromebooks and Kajeet hotspots,” Clayton said. “Now, during the closure, all students enrolled at both Ingenuity and its sister school, The O’Farrell Charter School, can go to the OCS campus to sign out Chromebooks and Kajeet hotspots for internet connection.”

If students have technical issues with their equipment, the OCS IT staff is available all morning on Mondays to resolve any issue, free of charge.

Ingenuity and OCS also makes sure that none of their students will go hungry. Students have had uninterrupted access to meals. Currently, meal service is available Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. during the closure. Students can pick up one breakfast and one lunch per day in the OCS parking lot.

To be sure, COVID-19 has created a very difficult time for families throughout the nation and Ingenuity’s community is no exception. Yet it’s not all doom and gloom – many Ingenuity students have expressed relief and gratitude for the independent learning program right now.

“The shelter-in-place order has actually led our students to appreciate their remote school work in new ways,” Modesto said. “Many students are excited to be able to complete their coursework during this challenging time just as they normally would.”

Ingenuity’s staff and administration prides itself on transparent communication with its students and families, which Clayton believes has also helped students feel more comfortable and at ease.

“From the start of the public health crisis, we have been clear about two main commitments,” she said. “First, our students will have the chance to complete their academic year. And second, that opportunity will be available to all of our students, no matter what challenges they face. This continues to be true and we are working with each family to make sure we are supporting them the very best we can.”