PACE Academy Helps Kids Adjust to Virtual School

This K-8 charter school in Oakland County focused on academics, mental health and virtual travel for a safe and healthy pandemic year.

At Dr. Joseph F. Pollack Academic Center of Excellence (PACE Academy), a tuition-free K-8 charter school in Southfield, principal Luvenia Perkins took the lead to gain the trust and confidence of families and staff during the pandemic.

When schools were encouraged to reopen for in-person learning, Perkins surveyed families before making any decisions. “It was the right move,” she says.

“When we got those surveys back, of course I was nervous. My heart was just so full to see that parents were thankful we were not following the trend but following what is best for the students of PACE Academy by staying virtual.”

So, Perkins gave the parents what they wanted — and so much more.

“We didn’t want to lose the strength of our rigorous curriculum or our high student expectations because of the pandemic. However, we had to be sensitive to the needs of our parents and staff. By putting strong emphasis on students who were not performing at grade level, we provided math and reading support during and after school, all while meeting the state Common Core standards,” Perkins says. “We also provided training for our online tools for staff, students and parents to keep the instructional integrity of our academic program in a virtual environment.”

Mental wellness for students

“Beyond academics, PACE Academy is focused on mental health support for students,” Perkins says.

“During the pandemic, we also knew we had to address the social and emotional needs of our students, and to get students more excited and engaged in the learning process,” she explains.

“We provided tools and strategies to help parents support their students dealing with depression and other issues that arise when isolated,” she says. “We have a monthly Parents as Partners event, and one particular night, titled Emotional Wellness Forum for Families, spoke to this issue. We partnered with experts from Oakland County Health Department, which included mental health and well-being consultants, a registered nurse, and a behavior interventionist to discuss the topic of depression and anxiety for parents.”

PACE Academy also distributes a weekly parent memo. “I try to not just give parents updates on what is happening in the building but also strategies on various topics to support parents in getting through the pandemic safely,” says Perkins.

Every Friday at PACE Academy is an asynchronous day for students. “On Fridays students do not have face-to-face live instruction with their teachers, however we do incorporate something fun. On Fun Fridays, students can log into grade-level games instructed by our fine arts teachers. Students play Kahoot Trivia, dancing games, Jeopardy, scavenger hunts and more. We also have virtual field trips that add to the fun. Students see a variety of places from the Smithsonian to the pyramids,” says Perkins.

Looking ahead

Perkins is confident that PACE Academy will be back to in-person learning for the fall 2021 school year.

“I am excited that our students will return to the building ready to learn and we are ready for them,” she says. “There were many great things this year for PACE. We are more sophisticated with our approaches to online learning. We stretched our creativity in keeping students engaged as well as our approaches to social-emotional learning. We have stronger strategies in place to address learning loss. All of these things will add to our success next year. The future looks bright for our PACE students,” says Perkins.

“We will always do what is best for kids. No matter what, PACE students will always win.”

Learn more about PACE Academy at pacek-8.com.

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