Before their school building closed, teachers and leaders at Garfield Prep Academy in Washington, D.C., learned as much as they could about COVID-19 and shared that with students and parents. The next step was to gather materials and lessons that students could take home. Once school closed, says principal Kennard Branch, “the first order of business was to make sure our students would be fed.” After that, the school worked through a series of needs: student’s need for computers and Wi-Fi; teachers’ needs for supplies and professional development; and everyone’s need for connection and understanding. We are “trying not to overwhelm them, because they are living through a pandemic,” Branch says.

In this episode of ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times, Branch talks about the things he’s worried about, including that many months of being out of the school building will mean his students’ academic learning will slide even more than is normal in the summer. “My teachers may have a lot more work to catch them up.” But even more than that, “I’m concerned about the grief and the trauma and how we’re going to address that for our students, our parents, and our staff while moving them academically.”

For more about Kennard Branch and Garfield Prep, see Schools that Succeed (Harvard Education Press, 2017).