Obama Magnet PTA - Pandemic Partnership Response

In response to the pandemic, Jackson Public Schools opted to provide virtual learning during the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Teachers would report to work as they normally would while students would learn at home using a virtual format. Teachers at Obama Magnet Elementary utilized Google Classroom and Zoom as their preferred platforms for virtual instruction. Learning at home schedules and office hours were established.

The Obama Magnet PTA wanted to do our part and, in June, we began conducting research on ways to support the school during this unprecedented time. It was quickly determined the following areas needed to be addressed: 1) the social, emotional, well-being and mental health of our students (and faculty/staff) during the pandemic 2) distance learning, including internet and device access (which would serve multiple purposes) 3) provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to faculty and staff (and students as well as their families, upon reopening) and 4) prepare for a possible reopening as early as January, 2021. The PTA reached out to the National PTA, local businesses, a foundation, and agencies for assistance.

The results have been tremendous! We received a $5,000 Covid-19 Relief Fund Grant from the National PTA. Through the initial $5,000 grant, 10 laptops were purchased through Office Depot, along with a storage cabinet and charging harness. By focusing on technology, we were able to provide equitable and uninterrupted service, as needed, addressing all 4 target service areas identified by the National PTA: 1) Social Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health 2) Distance Learning 3) Internet and Device Access - distribution of laptops and WiFi hotspots (provided by Jackson Public Schools) to families in need and to ensure effective communication. 4) Food Insecurity – by using the technology to identify food resources in the community.

We then applied for and received an additional $2,500 from the National PTA to address technical and logistical challenges that must be addressed as we attempt a hybrid-reopening, in mid-January. This funding is being applied to: 1) student headphones with noise reduction microphones that will be needed during hybrid Zoom sessions 2) classroom laptop surge protectors to be used as charging stations and 3) portable folding tables to reconfigure the school auditorium to serve as an alternative classroom site that allows for increased social distancing. Bowie Audio-Visual has also assisted by donating over 200 headphones and listening centers!

The Obama Magnet PTA also partnered with Mississippi Cares and MEMA to address the need for PPE. Mississippi Cares provided PPE to faculty and staff during the first semester. MEMA has provided over 600 adjustable and reusable cloth masks for all students and their families for the start of the second semester!

In anticipation of an increasing number of students that will return to the regular classroom as the second semester progresses, we have partnered with the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation to fund a $12,500+ renovation of our existing outdoor classroom. During this pandemic, a newly renovated outdoor classroom would provide an oasis for the promotion of physical, mental and emotional health of all of our students (and teachers). In light of the pandemic, it will allow for increased social distancing and plenty of fresh air! We anticipate renovations to be completed by mid-March, just in time for enjoyable spring weather! Our supporter, The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, has also been invited to offer health and wellness activities in our new outdoor classroom. They are looking forward to the opportunity.

Community Partners:
National PTA, Mississippi Cares, MEMA, Bowie Audio-Visual, Selby and Richard McRae Foundation, Jackson Public Schools, Office Depot, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, Obama Magnet PTA