Opening during a pandemic: A public charter school welcomes students

When Anthony Haskett started planning to open his STEAM public charter school, Mosaics, in Caldwell, he had no idea that he would be opening the school during a global pandemic. 

Despite being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mosaics opened in September for 273 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. 

Mosaics opened in a hybrid model on Sept. 9, with students on an A/B schedule and with an option for some families to enroll in completely online learning. Haskett, the school’s principal, said about 15% of Mosaics students are enrolled in the online school. 

On Monday the school opened for in-person, full-time learning. Haskett said each teacher has two classrooms next to each other that open up, in order to ensure a six foot distance from each student. 

“It has been an adventure. What has been great is teachers are responsive, kids love being in school, it has been a lot of work, but it has been rewarding,” Haskett said

Mosaics hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony last week. Haskett said part of the school’s goal is to instill a sense of community service in its students. He wanted to host the ribbon cutting to encourage community involvement in the school, even with the presence of COVID-19.

Ashely Kate Whittaker, a single mother of a Mosaics student, said she was originally skeptical and worried that the school was opening for in-person learning. As a single mother, with one source of income, Whittaker is worried that if she gets sick with COVID-19, her income would be halted. Whittaker works at the YMCA, where her clients are often elderly and part of a vulnerable population, and she worries about getting them sick. 

Whittaker attended virtual Mosaics school board meetings, met with her son’s fourth grade teacher and said she felt her worries dissipate. With the precautions the school was taking to prevent the spread of the virus, Whittaker said she felt confident her small family would be safe.

Whittaker also feels a special connection with her son’s teacher, almost a co-parent relationship, she said. 

“I work a 40-plus hour work week,” Whittaker said. “The hybrid schedule was daunting, I didn’t know how to juggle things, but my son’s teacher walked us through how to log on and at the end of that meeting I felt that there were not many unknowns.”

Whittaker said with previous teachers in the Treasure Valley, she has had to advocate for a supportive relationship, but at Mosaics she said it was easy to build that relationship.

Mosaics is a tuition-free public charter school, meaning it is independently run, but does not charge tuition. To enroll in the school, students must apply through the school’s lottery application.

The school is driven by science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, Haskett said. The school also aims to emphasize collaboration among students, design thinking and arts integration, the school said in a press release. 

Whittaker said the emphasis on collaboration and project-based learning was what drew her to the school. 

Haskett’s goal for Mosaics is to add a grade per year until it has full kindergarten through eighth grade enrollment.


Rachel Spacek

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