As Philadelphia schools were closing in March to slow the spread of COVID-19, the scene at many schools was chaotic.
In Northeast Philadelphia, teachers from St. Jerome Catholic School carried stacks of books out of the building. Students ran back and forth in front of the school as they waited for parents to pick them up.
Nancy Bacanskas, an administrative assistant at St. Jerome, said school closures would be one of the most effective measures local governments could take to reduce the spread of the virus.
“This whole situation is overwhelming, and that confusion to everyday life may be hard, but we are more concerned with everyone’s safety and well being,” Bacanskas said. “But this is the reality that people need to start thinking about now.”
Some parents cannot risk losing their jobs by staying home during school closings. As a result, they might have to leave their child alone or with an older sibling. Such arrangements could give parents safety concerns.
“Right now, parents have emergency child-care problems,” said Connie Santoro, mother of a fifth-grade St. Jerome’s student. “They don’t even have arrangements for everyday child care. This is just going to worsen the problems that already exist, but also the pandemic is making us more worried.”
Reene Giannetti, a third-grade teacher at St. Jerome, questioned how to find the right balance.
“It seems really extreme and really sudden,” Giannetti said. “And the implications for people and their daily lives are going to be so big that I’m not sure it’s worth it in terms of public health.”
Denise Mancini, an eighth-grade teacher at St. Jerome, said she is concerned that her students could fall behind.
“We will resume working closely with students to ensure we are taking good care of students’ learning as the situation continues to evolve,” Mancini said. “The school has been and will continue to guide education plans to provide assignments to students.”
Words and image by Cynthia Sardar.
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