This week we rolled out a contingency planning document to help Learners and their families envision what Emancipated Learning will look like as we navigate through the challenges of Covid-19.

The planning document details practices and protocols that Abrome is implementing that will provide Learners with high levels of direct engagement while substantially decreasing the risk of transmission of Covid-19. The planning document is the first to be put out by a school in Central Texas and can serve as a model for local school districts and independent schools to emulate.

One of the highlights of the plans for the coming academic year is a 3-week-on-site, 1-week-off-site schedule that allows the community to observe Learners during 9-day breaks between cycles to determine if anyone has developed symptoms before bringing Learners back together again. Another highlight is the use of operating cells, wherein a Facilitator (staff member) will work exclusively with 4-7 Learners for the duration of the 3-week cycle, preventing the disease from quickly spreading throughout the learning community should someone become infected. A third highlight is that Abrome will spend most of their cycles wholly outside in nature, often in public parks, as opposed to inside the schoolhouse. This allows for emergent learning to happen in an environment of minimal risk of transmission. At no point in the coming year will Abrome Learners be sitting in classrooms.

The mother of a 13-year-old Learner was impressed by the planning document:

“Abrome has created a Covid-19 management plan that considers every aspect of health while deepening the connection to the natural world. Despite suffering from cancer with the attendant concerns about Covid-19, I am completely comfortable allowing my son to return to Abrome. As always, Abrome has taken a difficult situation and resolved to make the program even better. Reading the plan made me cry with joy and made me want to go back to school.” ~ Daphne Silverman

The plans set forth differ substantially from those that most conventional schools are trying to develop. Preliminary statements from local public schools suggest that they are planning for three possibilities: schooling as usual, schooling online, or a hybrid of the two. While they may implement a variety of social distancing measures such as rotating students through the school so only half are present at any given time, the schools are still going to have a large number of students and staff sharing the same recycled air in confined indoor spaces. Such environments increase the likelihood of an outbreak of infections that would necessarily shut down the school and force them to revert to online learning.

Abrome is unique in that we are a Self-Directed Education community that is not bound to curriculum or facilities. Instead of teachers dictating to students what they will learn, in a Self-Directed Education environment it is the Learner who decides what they want to focus on. This allows Abrome Learners the flexibility to experience a wide array of learning opportunities irrespective of setting. Abrome’s aforementioned Covid-19 plans offer substantially decreased risks of outbreaks within the community, allowing Abrome Learners a high degree of connection with each other, while many of their public and private school peers will be forced onto remote learning platforms.

The father of a 5-year-old Learner found comfort in the way Abrome has been able to respond to the pandemic:

“The fundamentals of Abrome’s approach to education leaves it uniquely prepared to adapt to whatever may come. I suspect that no organization can state with absolute certainty what they will be able to offer in the coming months, but Abrome, thanks to its philosophy, seems to be perfectly suited to adjust to the changing needs of the students and guardians. Like many others, we have had a lot to worry about lately. We are very grateful that the education of our child has not been one of our concerns!” ~David Russo

The founder of Abrome, hopes that other education communities will follow in Abrome’s footsteps:

“Young people need protection from Covid-19 but they also need connection with each other. Unfortunately, most schools are sacrificing connection for protection. If they would consider moving away from the more conventional practices and structures of schooling they could greatly decrease the risk of infection while increasing levels of engagement. We hope local schools will look at what we are doing and reconsider the approach that they are taking to the coming school year.” ~ Antonio Buehler

Abrome is a Self-Directed Education community in Austin, TX, that serves young people and their families. Abrome provides Learners with a psychologically safe space that is anti-oppressive and consensus based, where young people have the autonomy to engage in meaningful learning experiences and unlimited free play in a mixed-age environment.