The Knightly News
Kingsman Academy Community Newsletter
In this issue
• Hear from our NEW Executive Director
• See highlights from Virtual Graduation
• Look into Kingsman Academy Virtual School
• Helping students stay healthy and connected
• Kingsman Academy in the news
• First day of school: Monday August 31, 2020
Our Executive Director Transition
In June, the Co-Founder and founding Executive Director of Kingsman Academy, Ms. Shannon Hodge, transitioned from her role at Kingsman Academy to become the Executive Director of the D.C. Charter School Alliance. The other Co-Founder of our school, Ms. Kennesha Kelly, has become the Executive Director of Kingsman Academy. Ms. Hodge and Ms. Kelly have worked side by side since Kingsman Academy began in 2015, and Ms. Kelly has served as Deputy Director since then. Please join us in welcoming into her new role our long-time leader and now new Executive Director, Ms. Kennesha Kelly!
Message From Our New Executive Director
Kingsman Academy Co-Founder & Executive Director Kennesha Kelly
Dear Kingsman Academy Family,
I am honored to become the Executive Director of Kingsman Academy. Ms. Hodge and I first envisioned this school back in 2013, and we never imagined all of the things that would happen between then and now. We’ve had many successes, and we’ve overcome many challenges. Through it all, we’ve carried a belief that is shared by every member of the Kingsman Academy staff: that all students deserve a school where they can be supported, learn, and become prepared for success after high school graduation.
As Executive Director, I am excited to continue leading efforts to further support, engage, and push our students toward success. These include continuing to strengthen our project-based learning academic programs and our positive intervention behavioral programs. We are also moving more deeply into our competency-based approach to learning and credit accumulation. Under the competency-based approach, students earn credit for skills they demonstrate, and they have multiple opportunities and flexible timelines through which to build and show these skills.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a huge challenge to our school and community, and I cannot be more proud of how our staff, students, and families have responded. Our staff and students have shown incredible resilience and creativity to enact a Virtual School system that was in full operation on day one of distance learning in March, has continued through our summer school program, and is ready for the uncertainty that comes with this fall semester.
I want to thank everyone for your past and current support and for your future efforts on behalf of our students. I am so proud to be a part of what Kingsman Academy has accomplished, and I am excited to reach even greater heights!
Virtual Graduation and 8th Grade Promotion
We were all disappointed that we had to complete the school year virtually and could not be together in the school building all spring. This was especially disappointing to our graduating seniors, who missed their prom, senior trip, and graduation ceremony. We always have to put the health of our students, families, and staff first, and having events like this in person was sadly not possible.
As always, we made the best of a challenging situation, and on June 17, we used YouTube Live to host a Virtual Graduation Ceremony and Virtual 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony. These ceremonies featured speeches from students and staff, congratulations messages from staff and family members, and a confirmation of diplomas, among other items. We also sent caps and gowns to graduating seniors, held a senior picture photo shoot at the school, and celebrated our graduates on social media.
Though when and how we will reopen the school building is still uncertain, we hope to be able to celebrate the Class of 2020 in person sometime in the coming school year.
The Building Closed, but School Stayed Open!
How distance learning worked at Kingsman Academy this spring
The fast transition to distance learning took every school by surprise. Fortunately, at Kingsman Academy, we already had a good structure in place because we have a strong student learning management system. This system is called Empower Learning, and it is the place all teachers organize their classes and post learning materials for students and assess student work. We have been using Empower Learning for years, and it provided a structure for our classes as we switched to the virtual classroom.
Every morning, students started Virtual School at 9:30 with a Community Meeting on Google Hangouts. At 10:00, students began their daily classes. High school students attended Humanities, Math, and STEM in the morning, took a lunch break, and then returned for Independent Learning Time (ILT), which is a chance to get extra help from their teachers or support from other staff members. Middle school students had four classes in the morning -- Humanities, Math, STEM, and Health/Physical Education -- followed by lunch and ILT. All classes took place live on Google Hangouts. In the live classes, students got directions and instruction from their teacher and completed their work through Empower Learning.
You can see a sample student schedule below. On the student’s live schedule, they clicked links for each class that took them to their teacher’s virtual classroom on Google Hangouts.
Along with the students’ academic classes, we offered all of the student supports we offer when the school building is open. This includes special education services, related services such as speech and language therapy, individual and family counseling, virtual behavior interventions, and graduation and college and career counseling.
Each learner was supported by a Support Staff Point of Contact (POC). These staff members ensured that students in their groups were connected to the internet and were attending their classes and completing their work. The POCs also worked with students and families to make sure their basic needs were met -- helping to arrange pickups of food, hygiene products, and computer equipment each week.
The Kingsman Academy community has really come together during this difficult time. We have worked collaboratively to overcome the obstacles that have arisen, and have moved forward with school to ensure we are supporting students in their basic needs and leading them toward their academic goals. This Virtual School effort has continued through our summer school program and we will have these virtual resources and structure to call on as we begin the new school year.
Keeping Students Healthy and Connected
How our Operations Team provided food and computer access during Virtual School
Kingsman Academy, like many schools, provides essential services to students and families that are just as important as the learning that goes on in the classroom. One of the most fundamental needs of our students is nutrition. When the school building is open, Kingsman Academy provides students with breakfast, lunch, snacks, and take-home meals for the evening. When we suddenly changed into a distance learning school, we had to make sure that we were still able to provide for our students’ nutritional needs. We also wanted to provide food for our students’ families.
Our operations team went into action the minute the school building closure was announced. We ordered extra food and started preparing food boxes for our students to take home on the first day of the closure. We provided a week’s worth of groceries to school families every Friday. These food boxes contained shelf-stable meals we procured through our regular school meals program as well as other grocery items we purchased separately. We also provided families with other essential items such as hygiene products and toilet paper.
Another essential part of our distance learning program was ensuring students were connected to the internet and had the technology necessary to participate in their classes. Many Kingsman Academy families do not have internet connections or computers at home. Kingsman Academy staff acted fast to order Chromebooks and T-Mobile hotspots for our students, and it was a good thing we did, as the hotspots sold out right after we received our orders. The hotspots allow students to connect to the internet through a cellular connection. Within a week of starting distance learning, every Kingsman Academy student had a computer and was able to connect to the internet and to their classes. We offered ongoing technical support to students to ensure every student stayed connected to Virtual School.
Distance Learning Works for Me...
What students and parents said about virtual school
“My experience with virtual learning is going very well. I can honestly say I love it. I’m able to stay home and do my work in my bed which is cool. I know my teachers are as happy as me because they see me way more than they did in school. I’m getting all my work done and my teachers are very proud of me. I’m very engaged in class and love the lessons that I do. I wouldn’t mind doing this next year if I had too.” -- Louis Evans, ace360 student
"Today was great. Classes were short but effective. I got help completing FAFSA and making sure I had the documents I need to apply to colleges." -- Loukeya Evans, ace360 student
“I’d like to say thank you to all my Kingsman Academy staff and family and friends for all you are doing. You guys rock!” -- Toloria Gant, parent
Kingsman Academy in the News
Kingsman Academy graduating senior, Ar’dinay Blocker, who will be attending Virginia State University, and her mother are featured in a Washington Informer article about celebrations for Washington D.C. high school graduates.
The Educating All Learners Alliance featured Kingsman Academy Executive Director Shannon Hodge discussing the incredible work our staff has done to ensure students’ basic needs are met during this challenging time: "Prioritizing Maslow to Get to Bloom".
Kingsman Academy’s approach to special education during this time of distance learning is discussed in this article from The 74.
Key Dates & Information
The first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year will be Monday, August 31st. Members of the Kingsman Academy staff will be in touch with each student about what school will look like this fall and to make sure students have what they need to begin classes.
Have questions or feedback? Reach out with the KAPCS contact form.
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