Inside a Brooklyn college, a year after COVID-19 hit
Almost a year after the pandemic closed MS 88 in Brooklyn, students are lining up in front of the building.
“They wash their hands, they take their time and they go straight to class,” said college principal Ailene Altman Mitchell as she and the school’s comfort dog Bailey greeted the arriving children. .
Pandemic protocols are a chore, but Mitchell says they’re worth having his students here in person.
“Even though they are sitting with masks, there is a human around them, in front of them, who cares about them, loves them,” she said.
Since last March, students here and across the city have navigated closures, distance learning, Google Classroom, and blended schedules mixing classroom and online instruction. It has been a difficult twelve months.
Eighth grade student Nataly Hernandez put it this way: “At the start of the year it was a little tough. As it is already our last year of college, we feel like we are missing something.
Now she can go to school in person – and even though it’s only twice a week, she says it makes a big difference.
“I feel even better, waking up to walk into the school building instead of looking at a screen every day,” Hernandez explained.
This year of school closures has almost been a giant experience. It is not known to what extent e-learning causes students to lag behind, which is known as learning loss. There have been few studies.
Educators are particularly concerned that distance learning will interfere with children’s long-term social and emotional growth.
“You won’t know until they recover the extent of the challenges that children may face, but it is likely that it will be much more than what the system has been prepared for in the past,” he said. said Aaron Pallas, professor of education and sociology at Columbia University Teachers College.
The city’s school system halted in-person teaching last March. Like other colleges, MS 88 reopened in October, closed in November, and then reopened in February. Most students who attend classes say they are happier here than online.
“It’s impossible to concentrate, impossible to make friends, it makes the social situation very difficult and it makes learning almost impossible,” said Benjamin Abramovitz, a sixth-grader, of his experience with the distance learning.
To prevent the virus from spreading, students should stay in their classrooms. But even with precautions, cases do happen. During NY1’s visit to MS 88, the principal received a call.
“Situation Room,” she said after hanging up. “I think we have everything under control right now. “
One student tested positive. The school is quarantining a classroom and informing parents in multiple languages.
“It’s scary being in school with, you know, positive cases. But I think if we do it the right way, and we’re careful, and quarantine properly, and we have programs in place, I think we’re going to do a great way. Mitchell said.
Since teachers work in groups, quarantine means that the principal will temporarily lose an entire team of teachers. Mitchell calls an impromptu meeting to figure out how to cover their schedules. This comes from the fact that she is also juggling a random outside audit of her school, a surprise visit from a bus inspector, and checking in with the students at her school as they get used to teaching in person. after a year that has been traumatic for many.
“Some days are more difficult than others. I will say that there are students who are filled with anxiety. Going back to school is difficult, ”she said.
Lending a hand on that front, the school comfort dog, Bailey. And although MS 88 is now understaffed, Mitchell says she makes sure every student has a teacher to talk to when they are having difficulty.
“Is it easy?” she asked. “No. But it’s not negotiable.”
Mayor Bill Blasio has announced plans to reopen schools like this full-time this fall. Mitchell – and his students – say they look forward to this day.