Omega School in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Maintaining Good Old Fashioned
Tough Love
Oscar Mireles has been the director of Omega School for over 25 years.
GED and one straight learning. We’ve provided a lot of platforms for people and kind of see which one works best for them. That’s what we are able to do. Now I
explain to the staff, with COVID-19, we didn’t know it was coming. Even though we had this online GED stuff, now we have to try things. What I realized is I have to
reach out to them by email or text once per week to say one, ‘You’re doing a great job. You’re studying’ or ‘Hey, I looked online. It looks like you were online last
week, but forgot to go online this week. But here is the good news. If I don’t see you online next week, you might go online and not have a spot.’ The third one is,
‘You were supposed to be online two weeks ago. And you’re still not online. I’m going to make your life easier. You’re not going to have a spot online.’ Every time I
take it away, I get a call, ‘Oh Oscar, blah, blah, blah.’ I say, ‘You’ve got to give me 10 hours by next week.’ If I get six hours, I’m good. That’s six more hours that I
have than if I did nothing.”

Omega School has also assisted students with some of the hardware that they need to do online studies although they haven’t developed the capacity to give them
WiFi hotspots at the present time.

“We’ve given out a couple dozen laptops,” Mireles said. “On the laptops, math and writing are the two biggest subjects students struggle with. We have something
called Modu-Math. It’s a video that goes from whole numbers and algebra and geometry. It’s a short video series. If they don’t have the Internet, they can work on
that. There is a little lesson and some exercises and you go up the ladder through fractions, decimals, percents up to algebra and geometry. People are able to work
their way up. But you don’t need the Internet. The ones who do have WiFi at home, they are able to access the three online programs.”

The Omega School staff is hanging in there with students as they strive to attain their GEDs while also dealing with lives that were struggling to begin with and
hjas been intensified by COVID-19.

“Our staff is calling people, texting people and emailing them,” Mireles said. “All of the things that we were doing then were for students we had pre-COVID-19.
Online we try to stay on top of everyone. One other thing is they all have lives. They have children and have to work. Some have a lack of work. Some have to
move and people die. Every week, it’s something. The girl who got hit by the car this weekend was one of my former students.”

Mireles is expecting the impact of COVID-19 to last well into the upcoming school year and so they are adapting to and strengthening their response to a virtual
education environment.
Normally we took the month of July off,” Mireles said. “This year
because we can work remotely, it makes no sense to take a month off.
A staff person will take a leave for the day. Now what we want to do is
the second level. We’re going to upgrade our website. We want to have
a portal where students can access some of our material. Right now,
they have to email us and then we have to email them back or put
something in the mail. We’re trying to have our website be the platform
for students to be more engaged and have a lot of other resources right
there so they don’t have to look for it. We really want to use Zoom and
Blackboard. It’s going to be a lot more blended learning. That’s where
we are heading. Right now, we are experimenting to see what works
and what doesn’t work. For us having multiple platforms, it seems to
work now. It’s more hands-on kind of stuff. And we are using different
technology. Probably with our math curriculum, we’ll have a whole
videotaped series of all of our math. They will be able to watch a video
that explains the math packet that they have in their hands. It’s like
their teacher helping them with their homework.”

In spite of the impact of COVID-19, Omega School is experiencing
success with its students. It has at least 15 students who have or
about to graduate having earned their GEDs. One can only wonder how
their traditional graduation ceremony will look online. COVID-19 or no
COVID-19, it’s important to celebrate student success especially
because of the barriers they have had to surmount in order to obtain
that GED before they move on to future challenges.
Part  2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling

Omega School on Badger Road does one thing and does it well: help people
attain their GED or HSED. And so that simple mission has allowed Omega
School to transition to the virtual education era. While it can be more difficult to
keep some students focused and to administer tough love when needed to
work with students to attain their GEDs, in some ways, the online world has made
it easier to know exactly where students are at.

“Right now, we have a cell phone app,” said Oscar Mireles, OmeganSchool’s
director. “We have paper andnpencil material that we’ve mailed. We have three
GED online programs. Thesenare all programs developed by someone else that
have information and studynmaterials and a place to record hours and tests and
all of that stuff. We use other people’s platforms: one schemeafied, one Spanish