As any teacher, school principal or district superintendent can tell you, returning to school in periods of normalcy is hard. Doing so in the face of COVID-19, a public health epidemic with extreme uncertainties, will be monumentally difficult.
The stakes could not be higher. An entire generation of students’ academic, social-emotional, and mental health hangs in the balance.
Public schools provide our children with hope and prepare them for productive work and fulfilling lives. They are a central source of community, a place to come together as a nation, to assemble openly, and to elect our public officials.
SARS-CoV-2 has fundamentally destabilized our public schools’ ability to meet these critical functions.
Despite the heroic efforts of our educators since the onset of the epidemic, student learning gaps have drastically widened. There will be an unprecedented need for mental health and wellness interventions for staff and students. Critical services, including access to school food, may be stretched beyond capacity.
On the public health side, returning to school will be predicated on testing capacity and quality, contact tracing, and serological surveillance in local communities. Each of these interventions remains inadequate.
Given these compounding challenges, If we have any chance of returning to school in the fall, the work must begin now.
Our Theory of Action
If we provide evidence based advice, resources and support at the intersection of public health and public education to governors, state education agencies, mayors, district superintendents and school leaders then we can affect a safe, efficient and equitable return to school.
The entirety of our work is based on the following Guiding Principles:
- We strive to ensure that every public school student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
- We operate with deep humility that district and school leaders are best positioned to meet their communities’ challenges.
- We are committed to equity in design, practices, and resourcing.
- We embrace uncertainty.
- We believe that simpler is usually better.
- We build in a state of perpetual iteration.
- Founder and Managing Director, Opportunity Labs, LLC and Opportunity Labs Foundation, Inc.
- Former White House Fellow, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development where he was Special Assistant to Secretary Julian Castro
- Former Chief Operating Officer, The New York City Department of Education
- Founder and Lead Designer/Developer, Humble Humans
- Former Chief Creative Officer, Merchwerks ( Fresh Markets, Cowerks, Bands on a Budget)
- Former Teacher, Sprockets (Coding Camps ages 7-13)
- Co-Founder and Mentor, Hip-Hop Institute (Boys & Girls Club)
- Co-Founder and Board Chair, The Technology for Education Consortium (TEC)
- Former Chief Information Officer, The New York City Department of Education
- Former Product Director, txVia (now Google Payments)
Juliette Cricket Heinze:
- Former Executive Director of Knowledge Sharing, The New York City Department of Education, where she oversaw the development of WeTeachNYC, the district’s online learning platform for its 80,000 teachers
- Former education researcher, Education Development Center, Scholastic, and New Leaders for New Schools
- Former Spanish Bilingual Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
- Co-Founder & National Board Chair, OneGoal
- Beck Visiting Social Innovator, Harvard Kennedy School
- Entrepreneur in Residence, New Profit
- Former Elementary School Teacher, Chicago Public Schools
- Managing Director, Opportunity Labs, LLC and Opportunity Labs Foundation, Inc.
- Former White House Fellow appointed by President Obama and Acting Director for the Office of Pandemic and Emerging Threats, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Former Emergency Medicine Physician and Flight Surgeon, United States Air Force
- Former Attending Clinical Physician, Sibley Memorial Hospital (Johns Hopkins University)
- Former VP, Product Management and Curriculum, LearnZillion
- Former Chief Product Officer, Noodle Partners
- Former Director of Learning Platforms, Scholastic