In March 2020, we faced the challenge of having to re-think our operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, we have collaborated with community partners and supporters to deploy a rapid local response to help mitigate the collateral effects of the crisis on Baltimore and DC’s most vulnerable residents. We creatively pivoted our traditional education, workforce development, health/wellness, and violence prevention services to continue to meet the needs of children, adults, and families while adhering to social distancing and all other government regulations.
We quickly established food and supply distribution sites at our POWER House and Park House Community Centers and Safe Streets sites in Baltimore and through our Dent House Community Center in DC, developed thousands of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activity boxes to distribute to students in our programs, established distance learning opportunities, instituted a protocol for staff to conduct wellness checks with program participants, and acquired technology for our Crossroads School students to access daily lessons and not fall behind academically.
Our workforce development centers in Baltimore and Washington, DC developed avenues for virtual career coaching, job-readiness training, internships, and referrals to housing, health and wellness, and support services. These programs took on even more significance as our country faced devastating job loss due to the pandemic. Despite acute economic instability, we were able to assist over 150 individuals in finding employment in 2020, many of whom are returning citizens.Throughout the past year, we have remained flexible, with a focus on maintaining services and opportunities as fluidly as possible as we work towards re-opening sites and programs in 2021.
Combined, these education, workforce development, and health and wellness efforts impact over 34,000 Baltimore and Washington, DC residents each year, improving individual lives as well as the overall community. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to learn and address the deeply embedded inequities in our country, Living Classrooms will remain focused on helping to change lives and transform our communities into safer, stronger, and healthier locations where the individual, the family, and the community thrive.
Scroll down to learn about the current status and updates from our sites and programming across Baltimore and Washington, DC.
How you can help:
Donate to the “COVID-19 Community Needs and Recovery Fund”
The most important way you can support Living Classrooms and our community right now is through financial support. The COVID-19 Community Needs and Recovery Fund will enable us to provide critical support and services including distribution of food, hygiene, and essential household items; remote hands-on learning, regular well-being check-ins, and help for the unemployed to access resources and connections to current high demand jobs. The Fund will help us serve our most vulnerable community members during the current pandemic and anticipated future impact, especially the extreme learning loss among students.
Select “COVID-19 Community Needs and Recovery Fund” from the designation dropdown menu.
Purchase items from our Amazon Wish List
Help us respond to the needs of our communities by purchasing essential items to keep families safe and healthy, and children learning during this difficult time.
When shopping on Amazon, consider using Amazon Smile and making Living Classrooms your account’s beneficiary. Amazon will donate a portion of every purchase you make to support us, year-round. Just navigate to smile.amazon.com and shop normally!
Thank you for your support of Living Classrooms to help our communities be safer, stronger, and healthier.
Programming and Facility Updates:
We thank our staff, trustees, volunteers, funders, and partners in the community for your patience and flexibility as we pivot and adjust to the daily changes affecting our most vulnerable communities. Below is an overview of adjustments being made to date. Please continue to check our website as these may change.
The Frederick Douglass – Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum remains closed to visitors inside the building, however, the campus is open for outdoor visits, including a look at our historic education vessels, photo opps with the Frederick Douglass statue, and some brief history of the space as the nation’s first African American-owned shipyard.
How we are supporting our communities in Baltimore…
The POWER House is serving as an essential food distribution and community service hub, serving over 350 grab-and-go meals daily, providing chromebooks to students, providing education and workforce training resources, and acting as an emergency hub during power outages where the community can store essential medications, charge their devices, and have a warm (or cool) place to shelter.
The Crossroads Public Charter Middle School is engaged in remote education for our 163 students. Teachers are preparing lessons and engaging with our students through digital avenues and have created a comprehensive online platform for students using curriculum-aligned resources. Thanks to generous donations from Medifast/Optavia our students have received some high ticket items, like graphic calculators, that are critically important to their success. The school also hosts socially distanced supply pick-ups to ensure students are consistently equipped for success.
The school is also continuing its Turning the Corning Achievement Program (TCAP) with enrichment activities that take place during the school day and after school hours, hosting virtual clubs for Creative Writing, Coding, Finance, Book Club, Build-Your-Own Guitar, and Chess.
The staff at our community centers and out-of-school time programming including the POWER House, Park House, UA House at Fayette, and Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students (BUGS) are committed to keeping open communication with all families. Our staff members have been checking in with students and families via calls and virtual outreach. The goal of these calls is to make sure our families are doing okay, check-in on their child’s learning, provide resources and support as needed, and maintain a human connection with our program participants.
This fall/winter, The BUGS program has continued virtual classes with integrated hands-on activities, engaging students to participate in interactive lessons in the core components of Gardening, Cooking, Creative Arts, STEM, and Dance. The program was recently recognized by the Maryland State Department of Educations (MSDE) for our continued efforts to offer excellent programming during the “Summer of COVID.”
Our out-of-school time programming incorporates Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) capacities: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Communication Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making Skills.
This spring, we hosted a hybrid in-person and online three-day Spring Break Camp where we focused on delivering physical and social-emotional wellness programming to students of all ages at our Patterson Park House community center.
Our Fresh Start students are engaged in weekly remote learning and our instructors are conducting wellness calls daily to students. Zoom classes focus on academic preparation for the GED exam, current events – the pandemic, social change, politics – and woodworking.
Last year, Fresh Start enrolled 33 new youth. 13 youth have been placed into employment, including jobs at Amazon, Fisco Doors, AmperSea Restaurant, and Walmart.
In the Summer of 2020, six students participated in-person and virtually internship placement. These internships were because of funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Mayor’s Office of Employment Development Youth Works Program.
Living Classrooms Music program, Ascend through Music, is engaging youth with individual and group virtual lessons. Individual lessons focus on instruments and group sessions focus on songwriting and beat development. The staff are also engaging with students through social media where they can share their original work with their community of followers.
In 2020, the program enrolled over 80 students across various initiatives, including a mentorship program, performance groups, and music enrichment sessions.
The Education Department is continuously creating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math) activity boxes for children of different ages (pre-school, elementary, and middle school) for pick up at grab-and-go food distribution sites in Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Our Maritime E-STEM Voyages have been suspended since the pandemic began but our staff has pivoted to offer virtual educational sessions. A Virtual Maritime Field Trip has been developed in response to the need for unique and meaningful virtual activities to complement schools’ distance learning. The Field Trip includes activity boxes with supplies, a 90-minute live session with a Living Classrooms’ educator, a performance task and rubric, curriculum and teacher resources, and teacher access to virtual content for post-trip activities.
Last fall, the program partnered with the Sagamore Pendry to provide educational activity kits and “Baltimore Experience” kits and activities for children and families.
Our Workforce Development case managers at Broadway Overlook Community Center and UA House at Fayette are working with clients remotely. Case managers are conducting daily wellness checks with all clients, filling out job applications, updating resumes, and providing resources. They are also hosting in-person resource fairs at varying housing communities within the Target Investment Zone to better assist adults who are looking for assistance with job training and employment.
In 2020, our Workforce Development Center at UA House at Fayette has assisted 37 individuals with securing full-time employment, enrolled 74 into skills training courses, and granted 86 industry-recognized certifications.
Building on last year’s successful College-Career Readiness Program in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, we will be working virtually with 15 new youth in Baltimore and Washington, DC on professional development, mentoring, and college/career readiness over the next year.
Project SERVE – while there was a partial temporary work stoppage for some components of our Project SERVE employment training program for returning citizens, participants are back on the job, performing critical maintenance and cleaning projects across Baltimore City using appropriate safety measures. With a an influx of newly released citizens due to the coronavirus, we are grateful to be able to provide employment to these individuals during these uncertain times.
In 2020, Project SERVE enrolled 79 returning citizens, graduated 53 individuals, and placed 50 into full-time employment.
A recently signed contract with the Department of Public Works has helped us expand our pipeline of employment for program graduates.
Safe Streets staff continue to mediate disputes to mitigate the recent surge in violence and have been designated essential employees by Baltimore City. They have been consistently providing meals and hygiene products, and essential supplies to community members in need.
Our Belair-Edison team was recently awarded several citations from the Maryland General Assembly, presented by the 45th District’s Delegates, Stephanie Smith, Chanel Branch, and Talmadge Branch, for their continued fight in keeping their neighborhood safe, their leadership, and their dedication to improve the quality of life of all residents within their community. The City Council also awarded the team with the Community Champion Medal for uplifting the spirits of all residents and their success in reducing shootings and homicides within their zone.
Our GEM Program (Girls’ Empowerment Mission) is celebrating 16 years of transforming lives this year. The program has successfully pivoted to provide meaningful virtual programs that help guide and support our young women during these uncertain times. Programs include weekly Zoom meetings, extended virtual “retreats” and ongoing connection with mentors, counselors, and college coaches.
Dr. Jang has been capturing the creativity, innovation, and impact of our incredible staff on the front lines and working remotely through our performance management system, LivingClassrooms.stat.
How we are supporting our communities in DC…
Kingman and Heritage Islands— The islands remain open to the public for passive recreation and we continue to maintain the property and report the number of visitors and their behavior to the District. Our educators continue to utilize the islands to host virtual education sessions where students can “visit” the islands from their computers.
In 2020, more than 100,000 individuals visited the islands for recreation. The number is up over 30,000 from 2019, even in a year when the Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. We also removed 27,000 sq. ft. of invasive plants from the islands this fall.
This fall, 151 young children and their parents participated in our Kingman Explorers program that provided an opportunity for learning outdoors while being safe and socially distanced. Families were given information and instructions about the islands’ ecosystem and then explored plant and wildlife on their own.
Gallatin Street Trash Trap—We continue to operate and maintain the trash interceptor on a major Anacostia River tributary during this spring rainy season. Our Kingman Rangers continue to use this work as training in green jobs.
Camp Fraser— The camp remains closed to student groups. However, our educators have developed a virtual curriculum for 5th grade teachers in the District so that students can still have a Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE), even while schools remain closed.
This past fall term, 68 students completed this program that wove hands-on activities done at home with videos and live virtual sessions with our educators.
After-School STEAM Youth Programming- Our student programming weaves in coding, robotics, music, and professional development opportunities that has continued mostly virtually in the months during the pandemic.
This past fall term, we hosted a 12-week hybrid in-person outdoor and virtual after-school program at The Dent House that incorporated our traditional music and robotics programming with computer coding. A similar summer program is in the works for 2021.
College and Career Readiness with Bloomberg Supported Internships- This past summer, we began an in-person (when safe) and virtual internship program in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. High school students were placed with local small businesses for on-the-job training and virtual professional development sessions with our workforce development staff. This program continued this fall and is scheduled to run through next summer.
Ascend through Music—Staff is continuing virtual music learning activities with our Queen Beez and Beat Zone students online and engaging with students through social media, where they can share their original work.
The Dent House – staff is collaborating with GOOD Projects and other nonprofits in Southwest DC to support the residents of the nearby public housing, and present virtual information about job readiness. Staff is also working with area groups to supply neighborhood residents with needed food through a food pantry. Additionally, the team has been distributing STEAM Activity Boxes from the Dent House to support distance learning, even for students without access to a computer or internet. We are actively seeking donations to cover the cost of materials for the boxes.Make a Donation Here.
How we are managing our facilities…
Most of our facilities remain temporarily closed to the public and most staff are working remotely. However, we are currently in the planning stages of reopening select facilities as deemed safe based on current guidelines from the Health Department. All facilities have implemented an increased cleaning and hygiene regimen, including conducting another deep cleaning of our sites. In all our sites and programming, we are following all the recommendations of the Health Department to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 and related variants.
Historic Ships in Baltimore – the USS CONSTELLATION and USS TORSK are now open to the public and much of our education programming is scheduled to resume. Tickets can be purchased to tour the vessels at historicships.org. The Chessie Dragon paddle boats and electric Pirate Ships rental concessions are due to open in April 2021. The indoor museum at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park remains closed until it is safe for visitors and staff to return. However, the building is open to small private events and the outdoor campus remains open to the public. All tours, education programs, military ceremonies and other activities have been suspended.
The grounds at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine are open to the public, however education programming and indoor tours remain suspended. The National Park Service Rangers will be hosting free Virtual History Tours during the month of April. Visit friendsoffortmchenry.org for more information.
Camp Fraser is closed, but we are working closely with the DC Department of Energy and Environment to re-design and expedite our four current grants for Camp Fraser and Kingman Island to support staff, develop materials, and plan for the resumption of programming. We are also pushing to expedite our pending Kingman Island grant from the DC Department of Transportation.
Our education team has transitioned environmental education programming to a dynamic live virtual experience and is working remotely with several 5th-grade classes from Washington, DC.
How we are ensuring the sustainability of the Foundation…
Our Development Team is actively writing grant proposals, communicating with the funding community regarding 2020 needs, and creatively seeking funding to support our programs.
Our departments have redesigned programming that allows us to continue to serve the community and meet outcomes tied to funding.
Our Finance team is ensuring accounts receivable and billing are up to date, doing cash projections, and drawing down on grants where allowed.
We are also applying for assistance where beneficial – including SBA funding as well as Layoff Aversion funding. We are applying for the maximum funding allowed. It will not cover all the fringe but will cover some additional operating expenses. We are hopeful much of this will turn into a grant, but that will depend on what happens in the upcoming weeks. The Layoff Aversion funding will reimburse us for costs we incurred (laptops, etc….) to set our employees up to work remotely.
Our Finance and Human Resources teams are staying up to date as to the FFCRA, DOL, IRS, and other regulations, which are being frequently updated with the finer points of the new legislation.
Thank you for your support of our mission as we navigate these uncertain times.
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