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These students are in a virtual school for 5 hours a day – uniforms still required

'Some of our young men are probably in homes that are less easy to be in all day,' Statesmen Academy founder Shawn Hardnett said.

WASHINGTON — Statesmen College Preparatory Academy is a public charter school in Southeast Washington. The school opened two years ago to help young men of color succeed in the District.

It’s known for smothering students with attention, its rigorous schedule, and for some, a safe haven.

"Some of our young men are probably in homes that are less easy to be in all day,” Founder, Shawn Hardnett said.

Hardnett said when school was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, they had to find a way to keep the students engaged.

They decided it would be business as usual.

Statesmen students are now in their virtual school from 9:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. each day.

"Giving our kids a schedule was important. Giving them a schedule and having them show up online, with their shirt and tie on,” Hardnett said.

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In uniform, they go from Zoom room to Zoom room for different classes, and they still have one-on-one mindfulness sessions to stay focused.

"We do virtual lunch, where we just open up this virtual room and kids eat in front of each other and yell at each other in the same way they would yell at each other in the lunch room,” Hardnett said.

Hardnett said this approach was important because most students are already behind grade level and many are considered at-risk by the school system.

Credit: WUSA9
Students at D.C.'s Statesmen College Preparatory Academy are given high fives on their way into school.

It took one week to get some students set up with a computer and equipment to participate.

"A couple of folks, who unfortunately, mom and dad both lost their job. So, you're going shelter to shelter, right? Shelter with dad on one day. Shelter with mom on the other, carrying our computer, so, you're going to need a hot spot,” Hardnett said.

If there's one bright spot, he said his students and their parents are now more tech-savvy. 

"They're used to using technology to play, but not to learn. So, this has been a very, very new set of skills for them," he said.

No date has been set by D.C. leaders, but Hardnett said he doubts his students will return to their building this school year.

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