When the city of New York decided to close the schools on March 13, our FHLP students were among the 1,126, 000 students sent home for distance learning and among the 13% of English Language Learners (ELLs); they also fall in the category of the 72.8% economically disadvantaged students. So for them, not being able to go to schools meant many things.
First of all, it meant a big disruption in their lives usually rhythm by their school schedules. No more classes and meetings with their friends, teachers and advisors; they were now home with their parents or guardians, with domestic responsibilities and limited access to quiet working space.
It also meant a big disruption in their way of learning, especially in international high schools where instruction is project based and relies on students helping each others and teachers differentiating and scaffolding to overcome the cultural and linguistic barriers.
It became very quickly clear after a few conversations that we needed to stay present and support them even if it was only remotely. So our weekly meetings with students from Union Square, Prospect Heights and Community International went online and teachers met with the students once a week, on Zoom or Google Meet to prepare for the AP exam or just listen, help find resources or moderate conversations in french around articles, radio shows, podcasts or documentaries, to give them a sense of normalcy and maintain the community they so desperately needed.
Agnès Ndiaye Tounkara