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Almost overnight, the jobs of a lot of working-class parents and grandparents were shut down. Thanks to COVID-19, many were thrust into new roles—to replace their child’s teachers. This new role has added to the stress and strain already created by the virus.

Poor Kids Not Getting Online Instruction

We know that students are not showing up for the online classes. From the U.S. Census and other sources, we also know that most of them do not have internet services or computers at home. How is this situation--well-known before the pandemic—being addressed in our struggling communities?

My concern is that given the lack of access to instructional resources, along with the mental and educational capacity of many poor and working-class families, this current semester will be a critical setback. Students coming from impoverished homes struggle academically without a nasty virus on the scene. If there is no summer school to make up for the loss of second semester, we can count on the academic achievement gap widening.

If there is no summer school to make up for the loss of second semester, we can count on the academic achievement gap widening.

Significant research has been done on the backsliding of poor students during the summer break. While parents with resources enroll their kids in computer camps, thespian teams, sports leagues or travel aboard, too many poor kids spend hours watching TV or playing outside unsupervised. Any instructional gains made during the first semester are doomed.

Research over decades indicate the learning loss increases with age so that by middle school, these students are experiencing 35-50 percent decreases in reading and math. School districts should be thinking about interventions right now. The interventions cannot be just about the academics.

We know who the haves and have nots are and it’s not always about race. A Pew research study found the families with higher incomes are more likely to have internet and multiple devices such as laptops and tablets. One in four low-income students have no access to the internet. This means a Black student in Milwaukee and a white student in Kentucky’s McCreary County share the same problem because of their economics.

Yes, I’m concerned that students don’t have internet or devices to do their assignments. But I’m equally concerned about the increase in child abuse (sexual and physical). I’m concerned about domestic abuse. I’m concerned about the increase of drug and alcohol abuse. I’m concerned about hunger. I’m concerned about unhoused families. I’m concerned about students with no one to help them with homework. All these pre-existing conditions in vulnerable communities just got ten times worse under COVID-19.

COVID-19 looms large over our lives and our timelines. We know that this school semester is a bust. Since folks are resistant to practicing safety during the pandemic, summer school is probably wishful thinking. (Now we have trumpites fighting to go back to work in the middle of the pandemic!)

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Our communities will have to develop some creative strategies now. Kids trying to learn in an environment where tensions are flaring because of no jobs, no money, no food, no recreation outlets, and a lot of other no’s is unsustainable. We know these families; they may even be our own family.

Can we make a commitment to call or Facetime a child to help with homework or to watch a movie together with a screen share or to sit on the porch and chat over some smoothies (with distance!) Give mom, dad, or grandparents a break. Give children a break. Before this pandemic is over, we’re all gonna need a lot of breaks so that we don’t break. In pieces.

COVID-19 is pushing us all into a pressure cooker, but the intensity of impact will be based upon your status before the virus and your access to resources now. That’s why I reject this notion that we are all in this together. What we? In St. Louis, MO, where the first 12 COVID-19 deaths were African Americans, the Black community is hardly feeling like this is a shared experience.

The graphic suffering and the long-term consequences to COVID-19 will live vividly in communities of color, especially those wrapped in poverty. There are challenges to what we can do to mobilize and organize during the coronavirus crises. Doing nothing is not an option.

There are organized efforts to influence policies and practices going on in your area that need your active response. We must find safe ways to comfort and support our youth, our elders and everyone in between. Resiliency only happens when people act in compassionate coordination.

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Jamala Rogers

Black Agenda Report

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