This week’s interview features Patricia A. Brantley, CEO of Friendship Public Charter School. JB and Patricia discuss the impact of COVID-19 on schools, the role of testing, and the path to reopening.
Hosted by JB Holston. Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez.
Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.
About our guest:
Patricia Brantley is an education reformer, charter school advocate and supporter of the right of all children to receive a high-quality education. Two decades ago, she served with the founding planners of Friendship Public Charter School to create better opportunities for D.C.’s children.
In 2003, Patricia became Friendship’s chief operating officer. In that role, she engineered the acquisition and development of six public charter school campuses in Washington, D.C., four partner schools in Baltimore, Md., and a new charter school in Baton Rouge, La.
Patricia oversees all operations at Friendship, has secured more $95 million in public and private funding, effected cohesion among the 12 campuses, and established the Friendship Teaching Institute as a model of professional development. She spearheaded the takeover of Washington’s first multicampus charter management group, ensuring that hundreds of children could remain in their school of choice.
Previously, Patricia served in corporate and nonprofit positions including founder of the Partnership for Academic Achievement; chief development officer and adviser at the National Council of Negro Women; executive director of the Dance Institute of Washington; and national marketing manager for the Black Family Reunion Celebration. She is a board member of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools and a graduate of Princeton University.
Nina Sharma 2:07
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.
JB Holston 4:01
Good afternoon, everyone. It's great to have you here. Thanks for joining us for fresh take, which is our interview series with thought leaders and innovators both in the Greater Washington region but also nationally and globally on pertinent topics of the day, and particularly topics that are of interest to the business community here. I'm absolutely delighted to have as our guest today Patricia A Brantley who's the CEO of friendship Public Charter School. I pat, thank you for joining us. It's great to have you here. A little bit of background about Pat and then we're gonna have a very robust conversation on a bunch of different topics today. But Pat, is an education reformer, charter school advocate and supporter have the right of all children to receive a high quality education is badly served to the founding planners of the charter school nearly two decades ago, when she joined with others under the leadership of Donald hens. To create better opportunities for the children of the District of Columbia, she became friendships chief operating officer in 2003, helping to grow the organization and deepen its impact. Then years to her tenure, she engineer the acquisition and development of six public charter school campuses in the district, four partner schools in Baltimore, Maryland, and a new charter school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Pat oversees all the operations at friendship and is secured more than $95 million in public and private funding, instituted management quality policies to ensure cohesion among the 12 campuses, and establish the friendship teaching Institute as a model of professional development. She's I could go on and on. I will go on and on. But we are delighted to have you here, Pat, for this very timely conversation. So thanks again for joining us. You're on? You're on. There we go. It wouldn't be a zoom, if one of us wasn't on mute?
Patricia Brantley 5:56
I'm delighted to be here, with what I want to say, you know, the greater Washington partnership has been completely beneficial to friendship as a school, some of the introductions that you've made to help us think about opening, reopening and staying open. And I'm just delighted that the business community would be interested in hearing about what they can do to support schools.
JB Holston 6:20
Thanks. Well, it's, it's really, really timely, of course, patent. I know you and I have talked a number of times over the last few months about about reopening and about why you've pushed so hard on this as a topic and the things that you've done. I want to get to that. But I love to start by just talking a little bit about the history of friendship, you know, how it came about, and who the students and families are that participate in friendship?
Patricia Brantley 6:46
Sure. So friendship was founded in the late 90s. It was at a time when families, particularly in DC were in desperate need of quality public options for their children. Friendship schools is an outgrowth of a social services agency called Friendship House Association, Friendship House, social welfare organization that provided childcare, daycare, after school youth programs, welfare to work training, other types of social services in the district. And what we noticed is that our children would leave our childcare centers, and they'd go off to school, they leave bright, full of promise and curiosity. And then we'd see them coming back a couple of years later. And it was like the light was dimming, right? It was like they, they they themselves, the individual children and their families didn't have that same joy that they left us with. They didn't have that same sense of a bright future where they could do anything. The charter law, people started talking about it. And we thought we have to do something else. We have to do something more. And families came to us, not only families, traditional educators came to us and we joined together and we founded friendship schools. You know, we we knew we wanted to support students from preschool until they went off to college or career. So when we started in the 90s, we started with four schools to elementaries, one middle one high school. Since that time, we've actually grown to 15 schools, so multiple Elementary, multiple middle schools, and two high schools. The students that we serve are primarily African American, they are designated as at risk. You know, I say to people that the students that we serve are the best students in DC. among our students are, you know, Ivy League graduates, we've got state champions in basketball and football, we've got award winning artists, we've got the state science champion, we have students that have shown that given the right resources and support, that they go to the very top in education and anything that they choose to pursue. So those are the students that we serve. Today, we serve about 4500. Across those campuses. Our campuses are traditionally all brick and mortar. But we do also operate the only online public elementary, middle and public high school that's online. Although I guess technically everyone is online right now.
JB Holston 9:22
Catching up to you catching up. Yeah, that's great. And let's talk a little bit about well, two things before winning before I get to this. Not everyone in the audience necessarily will know the difference between a charter and kind of a traditional public school or private school for that matter. How do you how do you talk about those differences?
Patricia Brantley 9:48
Sure, absolutely. So So charter schools are public schools. So you have the traditional district that typically operates all of the public schools under one entity or government entity, Charter School. pools are also public. They're publicly funded, that operate by public roles under an authorizer, in our case called the Public Charter School Board. But the charter is awarded to a private nonprofit in DC to operate the schools. We, our charter specifies the goals that we have to meet or be closed, that's part of the charter contract. If we're taking public money to educate kids, any kid in DC is eligible to apply to our charter school, no matter where they live, as long as they are a resident of the District of Columbia. And the public money follows them. But we are held to standards by the authorizer. We are awarded a 15 year charter or reviewed every five years to make sure that we're meeting the standards and the goals. And then we're renewed in the 15th. Year. So friendship has had its first renewal. We're going into our 23rd year and look forward to a long time of serving kids in our community.
JB Holston 11:00
That's great. And last question on those lines. What distinguishes the difference charters? I mean, do they have you know, fundamentally different people they serve and or approaches? Or how should people think about that?
Patricia Brantley 11:11
I wouldn't say we have fundamentally different people that we serve, I would say that when when charter started, at least we're friendship started, you had a lot of families that were considered underserved. And so there was a lot of interest in trying to find better options for their kids. You know, our schools are higher at risk than the surrounding DC that we happen to be in. So I think that there is that. But I think the biggest difference is that if, for example, you were focused on an early college high school, which our high schools are, or STEM education, many charters have themes. So you'll have a language immersion charter, a Montessori charter, a stem charter. And so families get that choice of going to a school that reflects their child's interests or their own interests, and operate in a way that is affirming to the families that are there, because it's something that they chose, that may meet their needs better than what was available in their neighborhood school.
JB Holston 12:19
Right. Great. Well, thanks for that. Let's talk a little bit about this past year, which obviously, there's not been anything that any of us were were anticipating. And I know you and I met I think through the Rockefeller Foundation in common Rockefeller Foundation connections, and I recall them telling me before you and I met, what a passionate advocate, you you are for your students and families. And talk to us a little bit if you could about it, maybe just some of those stories. You know, what, what, how has this been affecting your students and their families? Because I do, as we talk about reopening, I just don't think there's enough focus on those stories.
Patricia Brantley 13:02
Yeah, I mean, you know, the, when we went out in March, the initial idea was, we're going to be out for two weeks in school, then two weeks later, it'll be another two weeks, we'll be back in school. And then you start to hearing announcements that schools are going to be closed until the end of the academic year. We thought, I think along with most others that we'd be back in school in the fall. And of course, that didn't happen. We are very cautious, though, at friendship when we do a lot of planning. So even in the spring, we knew we had to get to all of our children from books, laptops of some kind, internet access, food, and curriculum materials, right? Like, we went into this heavy production, every child was going to have what they needed in terms of computers, they were going to have materials at home that they could use to learn from, we were going to do webinars and training or their families to help them but we knew it was going to be hard. And so the thing that I say to people when they say, Well, you know, let's just make virtual learning better. There are absolutely kids that are doing well in virtual learning. Absolutely. But that's not the majority of kids. The majority of kids are suffering, either because they're losing academically, or more than that. It's a social emotional. We did a wellness survey. It's right after the summer. And so even when the majority of kids said I think I can master virtual learning 770 plus percent said they were lonely. They felt isolated. They didn't do anything on a daily basis that really brought them joy. Right? They were anxious. The cost and mental health for students. That's a lot. The other part that we had to do, it was food. Like the reality is and people should accept this. Many students come school, that's where their regular meals are. And so we started preparing meals that families could come pick up On a daily basis, we realized we had to do more than that. So then they could come and pick up several days worth of meals, we realized we had to do more than that. So we started a service where we would deliver meals to families, meals were critically important. Regular things in your home, there are students that are staying on pace, their homes may be more set up and resourced to do that, right? Their families are bringing in tutors, they've got people to help them with their distance learning, they've got stable internet. But if you've got a child that doesn't have stable Internet, and three or four children are trying to use same space, or you know, maybe the desk isn't set up where they are, we realize that we had to, you know, not only send home books, because we did and computers, but you know, crayons and pens and paper. And, you know, here's how to get things set up so that a child wouldn't say I don't have this, and I've got to do the work. But but in terms of the stories and thinking about it, we started hearing right away that families who had to work, right, I'm an hourly worker, you know, I'm making minimum wage, I have to pay another caregiver to come into my home, to watch my children. And I am just making enough of my hourly job to pay for that caregiver, and maybe a little bit extra for food. Right. And so we knew we had to start bringing kids back, which is what we did, almost, you know, we opened virtually with the rest of the city. A week later, we opened our first in person learning hubs, and just to take the pressure off of families, but also to make sure our kids were in some place stable, where they could do their work and learn.
JB Holston 16:42
Yeah, yeah. Let's talk about what that what you learned along the way. Because you were you were, as you point out, you know, because you had families and children that needed this, you were looking to do this earlier than a lot of places were, what have you learned along the way? What sort of works? What doesn't work? And how did you manage to take those decisions in real time?
Patricia Brantley 17:06
Yeah, you know, it's the decisions that, you know, you have to sit down and just say, constantly, are we doing the right thing? For the right people at the right time. And, you know, we started with a small group, just about four or 5% of our population back in August, and then November, we went to expand, got up to about 10%. And I said, you know, I didn't know what was the right thing to do. And I remember I was driving in to work one day, our offices at the top of one of our schools, and I saw this family boarding a bus at Union Station. And there were three small children about three years old to probably preteens, and then another baby that was being carried by the mother, and it was the coldest day of the year. But I could see peeking out under a coat what I thought were our school colors. And so when I pulled up to our school, I saw the same family walking down the street. And I said to me, no one would be out at 7am, you know, with three small children and one infant, if they didn't have to be if they didn't need us to be open. And and I told that story to our staff. And they said, Yeah, we know that people need us to be here. And so I think the first thing is, are we doing the right thing for the right people at the right time? The right decision for us was to reopen, but we had to make it right for our school staff and our families. And so when I think about what we've learned, you know, when I think about the challenges, knowledge, confidence resources, there's a lot of information that floating around, right, just taking temperatures and screaming at anybody with a fever protects you, you know, and we ran out and bought, I think every touchless thermometer that we could thinking that that would sort of do it. You know, is it just HVAC? Is it the mass mandates? Is it social distancing? It is all of that, obviously. Right? So our minimum was, we are going to follow what the CDC says. That's our minimum and what our local Department of Health says. And we're going to do that on apologetically. So yes, you must wear masks. You must be screened as you come into our building. We're going to do all of that. We're going to amend our HVAC systems. But then we also said, Well, let's look at what other groups are doing. Private schools, universities, Major League Baseball, and over and over frequent, fast asymptomatic testing came up. We didn't know exactly how we were going to do it. But we said if this can protect others, it can protect our school community. So knowledge what works best to protect the school community confidence. What we found is that when we did the things that we're hearing about when we told our school community what we were doing, when we let them see what we were doing as transparently as possible, and when we told them if you see something, say something, right, if you see something not working Tell us that that built confidence so people could return. And someone came up to me and she said, Look, I'm not going to call myself the biggest critic of friendship, but I am certainly the biggest skeptic. And she was so frightened, she wouldn't come back. But she went to one of our training sessions, where we were introducing coming back to school. And then she went by the school and she saw everything we had in place, she was our second person to come and work in person. And so, confidence and trust, you know, you cannot put $1 amount on it, it is the thing that will help schools to reopen, but it takes transparency. And it takes following all the rules. And it takes providing people with a way to let you know what's going well, and what you need to work on. And then resources. We're fortunate, I feel fortunate to be in the District of Columbia, operating public schools. The mayor here said going into this year with all the uncertainty, she was going to continue to resource schools. We also got grants. And so we were able to do some of the HVAC work that needed to be done to ready our buildings to buy PPE, we were able to ensure that we had a lot of training for our staff, and that we have the signage. And so resources are really important. There's never enough money in schools. I mean, but we did at least start this year with having more resources from our city government.
JB Holston 21:26
Yeah, that's great. New federal administration, you know, clearly saying a lot of the things that you and I have been talking about for the last few months about things like fast frequent asymptomatic testing, and putting in all of the necessary preparations and funding for that. And all, you know, and then they've got a goal to have 150% of schools are now talking about K through K through eight, I think, open to some degree within within the first 100 days. But how fast can a change and the Federal Administration's view affect all of this? And you know, love to hear your thoughts on that in the context of your your schools, but also more generally, because I know everyone, you know, there's so much conflicting news out there and a lot of emotionality about all that,
Patricia Brantley 22:18
You know, I think it can Well, I know it can impact schools, I hope that it can be fast. The problem that we had last year, starting in the spring for months on end, was this lack of clarity around what was important? Should you wear a mask? Right?
JB Holston 22:35
Is it wipe everything down? Don't wipe everything down? Exactly.
Patricia Brantley 22:39
I mean, hearing from some of our leaders, this is gonna blow over and go away in a month, right? Or no, you don't have to remap that doesn't really do anything. That level of sort of chaos and confusion coming down said, How do I then go to people who who may or may not be afraid, but they're like, well, we're not hearing that. These are the things to do. And so I feel like for schools, were schools. We didn't have a playbook. Right. We didn't have a scorecard, we had nothing that said, there are 12 things you must do. And if you do these 10, you have an A and you can reopen. So we're figuring it out. Like I'm having staff meetings and conversations with people about community spread. And you know what the percentages
JB Holston 23:20
are zero and RT and right?
Patricia Brantley 23:23
That's right. That's right. And truth is, until I think I was on a call with you, and some other partners, this idea of fast frequent asymptomatic testing was something that we were like, we think we should do it. We're kind of hearing, it's important. And then everyone on that call was like, No, we're universities we're doing this, this is the answer. And this is keeping our keeping us open. And a private schools and universities can figure it out, we should be able to figure out for public school students. And so I think that the federal government can help by saying, Here's what all the research says, here's what you need to do all the mitigation strategies, but also be very clear about where vaccines fit, and we're testing fits, and then start providing the resources. Friendship does have access to rapid test, primarily through Rockefeller, but they were US Department of Health, right. That is where we were getting the test from from being in that pilot. Well, all schools need to have the need to be able to take advantage of something like that. If it's not free tests, very low cost, and school shouldn't be left to figure out the protocols, right? That we need testing to come to us as easily as possible so we can focus on what we do, which is educating children.
JB Holston 24:40
Yep. 100%. And I think certainly what we're hearing is all the right things from this administration, but with one caveat that all that has to be done so quickly, if it's going to have you know, an effect here in the next the next few weeks. The other thing of course has come up since you and I first started talking is Is vaccines. You know, I think when we first started talking, those were just a sort of glimmer on the horizon. And it's interesting in the context of the schools reopening, because there there was a lot of work on jurisdictions to put, you know, teachers and staff into one a or one B. And then all of a sudden, in addition to one A, and when B, there's like everybody's 65 and over, right? And now it's like, well, wait a minute, we got way more people that then we have, you know, then we have vaccines. How have you been talking about those sorts of things with your faculty and staff? And how do they think about how do they think about that?
Patricia Brantley 25:34
So I know that there's a debate about the necessity of vaccination to reopening. You know, the first thing that I would say is that friendship reopened daily for students months ago. And we talked about privacy universities that are open. And clearly none of these cases were vaccinations available, certainly not 100% of teachers and staff vaccinated. So I think that they're necessary for reopening. But they are not. What I would say is, they are a necessary part of the mix. But they are not the only thing. And so I think that masking social distancing, testing destination, when they become available, can help schools open and stay open. But schools can open without it and be safe places. And we're seeing that. I think that when you know, we DC, prioritize teachers, public school teachers that are in person for vaccines, the first teacher started getting their first vaccination this week. So we are group one be tier one. So now we have tears. But of course, DCPS is planning on opening fairly broadly, next week on the first and that's before everyone is vaccinated. Certainly before they have the second one. As I mentioned, friendship has been open and our first staff just started going in and getting vaccines. What I think people need to be aware of is the vaccine isn't a Get Out of Jail Free card. You have to have the vaccine, I believe there should be continued testing, there has to still be masked, there has to still be social distancing. Students generally are under 16. There is no vaccine for you, right. We have other people that might be compromised in some way in terms of health who can't take a vaccine. So it's going to be important that we continue doing all the mitigation pieces. But reopening isn't dependent on vaccination. Certainly vaccination can help. But reopening can happen. And more importantly, staying open can happen if we put all of the measures into place. And it's a puzzle and schools need to figure it out. But I wouldn't suggest that a school that has vaccinations should open if they haven't addressed their HVAC, right. So those are just things to think about if they're not screening people who are coming into their building, under some faulty assumption that everyone is vaccinated.
JB Holston 28:08
Right. Yeah, I think those are great points. And then you and I spoke a little bit earlier about, you know, as you mentioned, kids under 16. vaccines have not been tested against them yet, although tests are starting to roll out, which is good news. But it is in just in terms of the volume of vaccines available, even if they're effective and safe for that population. They're not going to be vaccinated for you know, certainly for four months. So sounds like, you know, certainly for months, maybe for the whole calendar year. You know, we could be looking at mitigation required, however successful we are with vaccinating. Would you say that? That's is that sort of how you're thinking about it?
Patricia Brantley 28:51
That's exactly how we're thinking about it. We're thinking that mitigation certainly goes through the summer, it likely goes into the winter of next year. But my guess is it will go even longer. I think that you know, it, it right now when we think about just the general vaccines that kids need from year to year, they their whole campaigns to get kids vaccinated. And the truth is that this you know, global pandemic has raised lots of questions and an old history, right, where people don't trust, unfortunately, the government and programs and so almost every day, you know, I talked to friendship, people and others to say, here's our why for getting the vaccine. Here's why we encourage you to get the vaccine. It's important to get but we know that when we look at the appointments for vaccinations just have people over 65 For people that are eligible, that within the African American community. within particular Ward's of the district were the words that are hardest hit, where we're seeing more deaths, we're seeing more significant consequences from exposure. The UpTake isn't there. Yeah. Right. You have less people that are being vaccinated. Someone called me last night, I guess put out something saying I'd taken the first vaccine, one of the first vaccine shots. And they were like, well, you took it. And so I'm calling you because I need to know if I should take it. Yeah. And I can give you my opinion, right? I can't tell you what to do. But my opinion is you need to protect yourself and your family. And recognize this isn't an experiment on African Americans or poor people, that's going to have adverse consequences. In fact, if you look at who's signing up for the vaccine, unfortunately, it's not the community's hardest hit. So So, yes, I think it's going to take a lot more time to build up the trust within our communities, to educate people about the why, to let them know, it's not just a cold. And even if you do experience symptoms, where it just feels like a coat, we don't know what the long term effects might be, of having COVID. And so take the vaccine to protect yourself. So yes, again, I think it will take a while. For us when we think about social distancing, bringing kids in a hybrid way. You know, as a school, we're thinking about how do we use every available square inch? To educate kids? How do we use outside? How might we expand into other locations that maybe aren't traditionally schools? But you know, with partnerships with business with partnerships with Rexha, has partnerships with libraries so that we can see more kids, but still keep them in small groups and in their own pods?
JB Holston 31:37
Yeah, that's, that's great. I, you know, is I reflect back on, you know, how everyone's thought about the pandemic, it's, it's always been binary, you know, sort of been okay. It's terrible now, but it's gonna be fine at point x, right. And point X just keeps disagree. But in fact, it's not. It's never been that right. It's just been this, partly because of how we've handled it. But But yeah, I think we think about this next year, you know, there will be gradual, you know, improvements toward something that looks a little bit more normal. But if we set ourselves up and say, well, we won't even start to make that progress until x happens or Y happens, whether it's vaccine or other. You know, we can't do that. Because you know, it's going to be it's going to be a long period of time. Before we're before were there. Some of this seems to be easier for you as a charter school to deal with than a traditional public school. Is that Is that a fair observation? And if so, why?
Patricia Brantley 32:39
You know, I don't know if it's a fair observation, what I would say just knowing that people that are in traditional public schools, it most public schools are so much bigger, right? And so when you think about the traditional public school community, and you're talking about 10s, of 1000s of students coming from all over a district, where facilities might be different in different places. people's trust of the system might be different people's resources that they have at home, you know, if someone said, Well, you know, if you look across the district, the families that want to come back, you know, are more well to do and their kids have more options. I said, Well, you know, sometimes if we're thinking about our families that are at risk, they're not choosing what it's not whether they value education, they value life, like they're watching that people, you know, they rather keep their kids home and figure it out. If they don't, if they aren't sure that they're going to be safe, because they know how devastating the consequences can be. So I would say it's complex, but but I think the real thing isn't just that it's complex, more complex for the district because they're bigger. I think we have to look at schools individually. I think we have to have an individualized approach to supporting schools to reopening. Maybe my one school needs an incomplete overhaul of the HVAC system because it was built in the 40s. And as we patched it together, it was fine until we had to do, you know, massive air cleaning, and maybe another school that's downtown has no outdoor space, like no opportunities for outdoor space, don't have a lot of windows that they can open to bring in fresh air. There are just so many things to consider. But our approach to schools needs to understand their individual circumstances. It's something I said about friendship, it is not only that friendship students are 99.7% African American and the majority are at risk. It is that friendships staff reflects our student body. And so I had to think about I've got a dominantly African American staff community hardest hit by COVID. Right. Friendship does retain its staff longer than what you might see in most schools. So we've got people that have worked for us 20 years, 15 years. My point is, is Some are older, right? I've got to think about what it means to them. And so my approach had to be adding testing doing all the HVAC, really, you know, considering both the staff and the students and their susceptibility to adverse effects from this virus. So we've got to think individually, at the same time, we can't leave everything for schools to figure out. And so we need a pool of resources available. So any school that says I need to add testing can go someplace and get it and they don't have to figure out the protocols and becoming a lab. And, you know, how do we get it done and finding the nurses testing is available, we need massive purchasing of PPE and cleaning supplies, so that in the spring, people, you're buying up as much as you could potentially hoarding, right, driving up prices, because there was no way for us to do that across the schools. And that's, whether it's traditional schools or charter, I think that those things need to be done across all school types, so that we are able to deliver better for all of our families.
JB Holston 36:08
Now, it's great to talk a little bit about this coming year, and then I want to talk about how business can help. But if you think about this, this coming year, my gosh, we're one month into it. So this year, you know, businesses think in terms of quarters, right, you know, they got quarterly earnings, and they got to report out at the end of each quarter. And, you know, if you sort of think about the first quarter of this year versus the second quarter, just the counter versus the third and the fourth, how are you thinking about, you know, what the progression looks like, for friendship through that period of time?
Patricia Brantley 36:37
Sure, it's what you said a bit earlier, which is, you know, it's not binary. So we decided, right, we need to build up our capacity and our expertise. And so you know, starting opening virtually, with learning labs, with most kids still in virtual learning. That was our first quarter. By the time we were starting the second quarter, we doubled the number of kids that were coming in person. And then we started adding what I'll call pilots or experiments, so having teachers come in and say, What could I do from my site that maybe I couldn't do virtually, and let's pilot out how we can do work. As we go into the next quarter, we will expand that some more with the idea that by fourth quarter, we believe that with testing, with what we're seeing in terms of community health metrics, with vaccinations, and with this new administration, trying to bring more of that online, that we actually and with it becoming warmer, meaning that we've got more to the outside, that we should see most kids coming back. And so that's the progression that we're thinking about, they will come back to finish out the school year, what we already know about the school year, I gave you the figures around just mental health and anxiety, etc. We know that most school systems are seeing more D's and F's, so more failing grades. And so we've got to get kids, you know, up to grade level, we've got to address those D's and F's, we know that when we're looking at reading and math skills, we're seeing a loss of reading and math skills. What we're finding is that for older kids, you know, reading suffering ELA a little bit more, and in younger kids, it's math, because some of the things that you would do hands on in math are harder to do virtually. And so we're looking at Saturday school, evening school, an intensive summer plus tutoring that students can access from home that they can access in school, I think that we have this perfect opportunity to take all that we learned through virtual learning, and use it to give kids more time, we need to say, hey, we use all these great programs, kids were doing a lot of this independently. So we need to keep extra computers in their home. We need to continue supporting Internet access at home for kids so that they can access education on Saturday in the evening. And then obviously, within school sites, you know, we're doubling down, right. We will bring in teaching assistants, we will bring in additional teachers and staff, just so that we can make sure that our small groups are operating with all the resources that they need.
JB Holston 39:12
Yeah. Sounds like there will be opportunities for students to put in more time in school is quote, unquote, in the summer than is normal for me is I get any pushback on that from parents. I mean, at this point, I know it's probably seems so far in the future for most folks that they're just like, tell me later, but now,
Patricia Brantley 39:29
you know, I'm not really seeing pushback from from parents. Parents want their kids to be in school. They want them they want them to be in school safely. Right. They want them to learn. They want them to be on track with their grade level. Our parents are really aware that their colleagues and people they know that have kids in private school, they're going to school, most of them right on a nearly daily basis. And they know that that's happening. They know that it's not necessarily fair And then but But mostly what they know. And what they fear is that their children could be falling behind compared to other kids that are in school. But it's an individual decision, right? Some people are so tired when it comes to the summer, you know, are they going to have their kid coming for summer. So we think that it's important for kids to come in, and are able to, in that they're able to work on the skills in reading and math. But it's also important that they have their art class again, right, and their music class. They have athletics back. And so those are things that as we move into summer into the fall, we should be able to bring back and kids can work on those social emotional skills at the same time.
JB Holston 40:43
Yeah, that's great. Let's talk a little bit about how business can help through that process. You mentioned, tutoring, you talked about space, which both sound like categories, where business, you know, might be able to be helpful, because a lot of businesses you and I spoke with earlier, but a lot of them have a lot of folks who aren't going to get vaccinated for a long time either. And in many of those cases, they're going to be keeping both those folks want to get engaged in some productive way. But also, they probably have space because they're not going back anytime soon. But thoughts on how business can help over this next year?
Patricia Brantley 41:16
Absolutely. I'm going to start with tutoring. You know, business can absolutely help with tutoring with providing supports college advising, we have a bunch of kids that are going to leave from us and go to college, we're not sure how they're going virtually they're going in person. And so business help by saying this is what it's like. These are recent graduates, they can talk to you about their colleges. Normally, by this point in the year, we would have done dozens of visits of taking kids to colleges. And while there is some of that happening, virtually, there's nothing like sitting down with a recent graduate sitting down across a computer screen. And having them say this is what college was like, This is what you should expect. This is the workload. So this is this can help with that, though doing walkthroughs. We've got some experts, right. But in this region alone, you have people that are building experts, real estate experts, etc. We're walking through our buildings, we're seeing things we're seeing them with our eyes, having people who could come in with new eyes and say, here's what we're looking at. I learned from business, you know about UV lighting, that helps to sanitize better, I'm sure there are things that this does know that we have schools may not have that information right away. PPE support, right support of supplies and materials that kids can use at home or at school, that that sells at a premium, we still have kids that need those things. Even when we when we start bringing kids back, the reality is they may be two days at school, two or three days at home. And so we know in their homes, they still need. We've had requests for desks, pencils, you know, paper, that printers, they're just things that that are needed. And this is might find that they've got more of that because as you said, they're all employees work from home to that end space. Right? In any friendship school building, I can probably bring that anywhere from 40 to 60% of kids at one time. And so if I have more space, I can spread out more. And so businesses that may have a cafeteria that's not always available, or may have their own grounds with outdoor space, that they're willing to let us bring a class or two of kids over, that would be immensely helpful. Food, you know, hunger, I mean, it's still a problem. We still have families that need more support. So while this may not be support to schools directly, food banks, clothing, banks, those are things that that are needed in our community, we need to provide support to those entities. But I would definitely say that food is a part of it. And then you know, I have to put in a plug of flexibility for families, right, our families, our workers, they need the flexibility to sort of get their kids back into school. Businesses, I think need to understand that, again, going into the spring, most schools are probably going to be doing two days on three days off, or you know, half day here, but a half day back at home. And so families are going to continue to need flexibility. Last thing. You know, we're not experts in telework, in school communities. But there may be that as we go into next year, and for the future, that we can start rethinking at least in our business services or finance offices, etc, about teleworking. And I would say if business could share with us, what they've learned how they might be setting up telework programs, that that would help school communities.
JB Holston 44:45
Yeah, this is great. I think you and I need to write an article on this because and I think it's very timely and I think it's time that people really start thinking out through, you know, the full the full year. Pat, we're coming to the end of the time. Let me ask you one last question if I can, if you think about and ship in three years, maybe it's in five years. But what's the dream? What would you like to see it? It'd be at that we're post pandemic now. And, you know, how do you think about that?
Patricia Brantley 45:13
So, you know, because we're 20 plus years old, in some ways, I'd say, you know, we're living our dream right now, which is doing all we can for the families that we serve. And in giving them we started just getting 20 years down the road, seems like you know, but a three to five years, I think that I would say that what I want is for the world to realize what we know. And that is that the students that we serve, they can not only survive, right, they can thrive, right, they can achieve at high levels, they can live out their dreams, they can contribute to society, they can contribute to innovation, they can contribute to what we know, in the world, and how we improve our society. My dream is that in three to five years, we will gotten past the hard times of this pandemic, to the silver lining of what happens when you have to learn to operate and do business do school in a completely different way. That we've caught up any losses that that kids would have had from this time, that would have to be quite up. But we've gone further than that. And we've taken what we've learned in this pandemic, to allow kids to learn whenever and wherever on demand, because that's really where the world is moving in almost all other services, right? That it becomes a standard, that that learning in school is competency based, you mastered it, you can move on, you don't have to wait for me, right, you can move on to the next grade level of skills are to the next set of skills. I want our kids to be able to explore any topic that they want to because they're able to move on. And I think that we have seen great programs that are starting to come up, I think that we've seen teachers start to imagine what they do. It's a conversation that I heard from teachers recently, like, you know, this kid is doing all their work, but I didn't see them at 910. And you know what, that's okay, right? Like, because I can see that they're doing the work, and they're turning it in. And you can see the mind shift that's happening, that what you know, is so much more important than doing every step that we sort of told you. So in three to five years, you know, we've caught up all our learning losses, or students are continuing to thrive and to grow into achieve, but now they're doing it in their own way. And they can independently do the work that they are most interested in, and that we provide the tools for them to do so. And that they can move along to their pace. They can accelerate if they need to. They need more time. We're not failing them for needing more time. We're giving them more time so that they can master what it is and that we have support of our community of our city. But yes, our business partners as well, in order to get that done.
JB Holston 48:00
Yeah. Well, look, that's from the Greater Washington partnership standpoint, the more equitable and inclusive this region becomes the the more competitive it is. And so it's a it's not just a moral but an economic imperative, from the business perspective that, that you succeed. Thank you for being our guest today. We appreciate it. Appreciate the conversation. Look forward to following up with you on these items as well. My guest has been Patricia Brantley, who's the CEO of friendship Public Charter School here in the District of Columbia. Pat, thank you and thanks for all you're doing. Thank you
Nina Sharma 48:38
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Justin Matheson Turner, Christian Rodriguez and Nina Sharma. If you liked what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington partnership.com.