Our Doors Are Open: Welcome to the 2020-21 School Year!

What a joy it was to welcome our scholars and staff to our buildings today! After being apart for more than six months, we were elated to see our community together in-person again. Thank you to our staff, operations teams, and families who made this a reality. We are thrilled to have you physically with us!  

Today Brilla is five campuses strong: three in the South Bronx and two in the University Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. Over 1,300 Bronx families have entrusted us with their children. We take this responsibility very seriously, and our leadership teams worked tirelessly over the summer to meet this great challenge in today’s COVID-19 world. After consulting physicians and epidemiologists to dig into safety implications and to understand how to mitigate risk, we submitted a 62-page reopening plan to the State at the end of July. Our planning revolved around bringing our kids and staff back in-person as soon as possible in the safest way possible. There simply is no substitute for in-person care and attention. 

While awaiting guidance on our reopening plan, we began our school year remotely on August 31st. Just as they did this past spring, our staff, scholars, and families rose to the occasion. Our operations teams distributed over 1,200 devices for remote learning and went to great lengths to secure internet connectivity for our families. Indeed, their work bore fruit: Network-wide, we’ve maintained attendance rates over 90% every day. This is extraordinary given technological challenges. Special gratitude towards our families for embracing this challenge and ensuring that their children are learning from home. Thank you!

Leading up to our August 31st remote start date, our campus leadership teams called each family to discuss their schooling options. Families selected one of two options: (1) an in-person, blended option where a) 1st through 8th grade scholars alternate between on-campus learning and remote learning on weekly basis and b) kindergarteners attend on-campus, in-person learning 100% of the time OR (2) a fully remote option where K through 8th grade scholars learn from home 100% of the time. Today we welcomed half of our in-person blended scholars to campus and look forward to welcoming the other half next week. 

Brilla Veritas staff arrived to the new building early in the morning to welcome scholars

Much has changed since the last time we were all together on March 12. For one thing, the Brilla family has grown. In addition to opening two new elementary schools (Brilla Pax and Brilla Caritas), Brilla’s founding cohort is entering eighth grade at Brilla College Prep Middle School. The number of Network and school-based staff has grown over 200. All five Brilla campuses are fully enrolled–a testament to the incredible work of our enrollment and operations teams. After incubating at two different locations since founding, Brilla Veritas Elementary moved to its permanent campus at 600 E 156th Street. Additionally, our buildings look a bit different from the spring: hallways are marked to accommodate social distancing; each classroom has its own caddy of Personal Protective Equipment; plastic barriers are installed in the main office; and hand sanitizer dispensers can be found all over the building. Although the buildings look different, they sound the same. Giggles, songs, and enthusiastic comments filled the halls again today. While we may not have been able to see our scholars’ wide grins behind their masks, we did hear their joy and excitement loud and clear. It is so good to be back!

Our scholars love the fancy hand sanitizer dispensers!

Through all of this, our staff has been remarkable. They brought high-levels of energy and concentration to five weeks of virtual onboarding. They opened two new elementary schools in a pandemic. They taught kindergarteners on Zoom. They produced heart-warming videos about safety protocols. They exemplify persistence, dedication, flexibility and — most importantly — courage. To our staff, we say: THANK YOU! You are making sacrifices big and small so that students can physically come to school because they need you, because their parents need you, and because they trust you. You have our admiration and gratitude. We are so proud of you. 

Cheers,

Luanne Zurlo

Executive Director, Brilla Schools Network

Kelsey LaVigne

Chief of Schools, Brilla Schools Network

Brilla Caritas’s Kindergarten Teacher and Team Lead, Ms. Kiara Chavez, enjoys a brain-break with her scholars on Zoom

Categories: Leadership Update

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