Smaller Learning Groups, Bigger Gains for Ethos Classical Charter School

Ever since Ethos Classical Charter School opened in South Atlanta in 2019, small-group instruction with two teachers per classroom has been a hallmark of its learning model. 

So when the pandemic hit, the literacy and arts-focused elementary school readied itself to create even smaller learning groups to meet safety requirements for students and staff. 

“But in order to have more in-person learning instruction through smaller learning groups, we needed more adults,” explained Emily Castillo León, Head of School and founder of Ethos Classical. “Hiring more educators during a pandemic was quite the challenge. We needed talented candidates and funding for the additional salaries, quickly.”

Thanks in part to a grant from the redefinED atlanta Innovation Fund, Castillo León was able to solve her school’s biggest challenge during the pandemic—creating safe in-person instruction. 

“We were able to tap into a new talent pipeline thanks to redefinED, and we were able to hire four full-time, on-site learning leaders, which enabled us to bring students back in-person,” Castillo León explained.

In addition to being able to offer in-person learning to more students, hiring new educators mid-year gave Ethos Classical a jumpstart on hiring for the 2021-22 school year, which is a necessity as the school grows by one grade per year.

Among the new teachers hired is Josalyn Jones, a recent college graduate with a degree in child developmental psychology. Jones joined Ethos Classical during the pandemic and was hired to stay on for next school year. She’ll also be able to pursue her Master of Arts in Teaching degree through Ethos Classical’s partnership with the RELAY Graduate School of Education’s teacher residency program. 

“I have never felt so in place and welcomed in my life,” she said. “My journey has led me on the path to a great school where I know my skills as an educator will increase and flourish.”

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Ethos students patiently waiting to have their class picture taken below a “RESPECT” reminder. Throughout the school, walls feature similar positive messages, affirmations and artwork.
Ethos Principal Emily Castillo Leon showing students how figs look before they ripen.
Ethos Principal Emily Castillo Leon Checking Plants in the Garden with Students
Students and Castillo Leon checking on the progress of recently planted tomatoes, collard greens and other veggies in the school’s courtyard garden.





The Namaste Project works to bring yoga and mindfulness to Atlanta children

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the mind, body and spirit of people all around the world,” said Dr. Kali Arnold, co-founder and director of content development for The Namaste Project, an Atlanta organization that partners with schools and youth organizations to bring meditation, mindfulness and yoga to students and staff.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year The Namaste Project was able to make all of its programs available digitally so that it could continue to provide emotional support to the children at its partner schools.

“A mindfulness practice has been shown to help regulate emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, alleviate stress and anxiety and increase focus,” said Danielle Brunson, the co-founder and director of operations at The Namaste Project. “We believe that by providing staff and students a safe space to meditate and/or practice yoga, the school climate will be positively impacted.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, The Namaste Project was working in schools to lower behavioral referrals, lower suspension and expulsion rates and increase test scores and student learning using yoga philosophy.

“The benefits gained from practicing mindfulness will have a lasting impact on our students both in and out of the classroom,” said Tiffany Franklin, assistant principal at Beecher Hills Elementary School. “The techniques learned will help them reduce the negative effects of pandemic stress and depression but also improve their ability to stay engaged, avoid behavior problems and increase their understanding of their feelings and emotions.”

Who’s helping?

The Namaste Project

Services: The Namaste Project is an organization that partners with schools and youth organizations to bring meditation, mindfulness and yoga to students and staff.

Where supplies have gone: The Namaste Project works to provide partner schools and organizations’ staff and students with yoga mats and does free community work, such as the training provided to the Latin American Association youth development staff and the free curriculum it provided for the Boy Scouts of America’s Atlanta Chapter.

Where to donate: Email [email protected] to learn how to sponsor a training for a specific youth program or to be connected with a partner program or school to support their needs directly.

How to get involved: Email [email protected] to set up a consultation for your school or organization or to inquire about opportunities to work or volunteer.


redefinED altanta Official Discusses Pandemic’s Effect on School Districts’ Educational Gaps

The leader of a nonprofit, which is working to ensure that every student in Atlanta receives a high-quality education, says hybrid education is challenging. He’s hopeful that students will return to classrooms for in-person instruction in the fall.

“The silver lining here is that the vaccine is being distributed and folks are eligible who work in education,” said Ed Chang, executive director of redefinED atlanta.

Click the link to read the article.

As Coronavirus Cases Increase, Some Metro Atlanta School Districts Plan To Start The Year Remotely

Atlanta Public Schools, the DeKalb County School District, and the Clayton County Public Schools recently announced plans for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. All three school systems plan to begin the year virtually, based on current public health data on the spread of the coronavirus in metro Atlanta.

The districts said they followed guidance issued by the Georgia Department of Education in June, which said schools should stick with remote learning if the coronavirus has reached a level of “substantial” spread in their communities.

Switch To Online Learning Could Provide ‘Stress Test’ For Metro Atlanta Schools

Starting Monday, March 16, several metro Atlanta public school districts and all 26 of the state’s colleges and universities will make the switch to online learning due to coronavirus concerns.

Schools say they’re ready for the change. But experts say there could be some unforeseen challenges to virtual classrooms.

Providing Access

The biggest challenge for a lot of K-12 districts is making sure students and teachers have internet access and a device to use.