In January, the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak in the United States, and quarantine kept most people at home. But travel restrictions did not prevent 18-year-old Geovanni Diaz from logging hundreds of hours in transit. He has to go to work.

Diaz is a high school student in Oakland, California. He came here from Guatemala in 2019. Like thousands of new immigrant children in the United States, he goes to school while working to pay the rent and support himself and his mother. He is no stranger to long-distance commuting. This spring, it often takes an hour or more for him to reach the hospital where he serves as the janitor. Although he works the night shift, if he has to consider the school commute, this job may not be possible at all.

At the beginning of the pandemic, distance learning provided a unique opportunity for working students: no need to spend time on campus, and the ability to log in to Zoom from anywhere, working hours can be extended to almost any point in time. day. Once the economic recession begins, this opportunity often becomes a necessity, especially for immigrant students. Now, as schools reopen and resume their pre-pandemic schedule, the school district is facing obstacles in getting these learners back into the classroom — some are experimenting with new strategies in the process.

“Some students will say,’Well, if I can’t prepare food for my family, then why is education the top priority for me?'” said Rose Francois, senior project director. root, A non-profit organization that supports immigrant youth in Massachusetts. “I think some schools now think that we will return to normal immediately, but I don’t actually think that the students are like this.”

Immigrant students go to school and work part-time Not a new phenomenonHowever, Avary Carhill-Poza, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Boston, has been studying these students throughout the pandemic. He said that with the pandemic, students are doing more Work or engage in a full-time job they already have.

“This year, there are no cameras. The students told us that they turned off the cameras during class, cleaning the house to make money, repairing cars to make money, and taking care of their siblings,” she said.

Part of the explanation has to do with how these communities experienced the pandemic.Economic consequences Black and brown family More seriously, immigrants suffer disproportionately Service industry closures and layoffsDue to language barriers and less access to legal resources, they are also more likely to be deported-even in cities where bans are imposed. Carhill-Poza pointed out that although some of the students she followed used to spend their money on themselves, most of them now contribute to rent or family support.

Facing the new reality

In the early days of the pandemic, school district and community leaders provided laptops, Internet hardware, and money to keep students engaged. Enroot launched a Emergency Immigration Cash Assistance Fund Distributed more than $170,000 to families in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts.Schools in Auckland, the area Organized fundraising And distribute food and medical resources to support new immigrants, especially those undocumented who are not eligible for federal assistance.

But a few months later, school leaders began to think about issues beyond emergency intervention, instead facing a new reality: for many immigrant students, having a job, sometimes even during normal school hours, is a must Less.

“This is the top priority,” said Emma Batten-Bowman, who is the assistant principal of Rudsdale Newcomer High School, an Oakland continuing school designed for older working immigrant students.

In Massachusetts, Enroot provides free after-school tutoring and tutoring for immigrant students. Last year, they re-adjusted their curriculum to meet the needs of students who have new problems with financial literacy, job training, and finding alternative university pathways that may include work, but without sacrificing their degrees.

“Instead of trying to get students to adapt to’this is something that programming needs to consider,’ I think we should shape ourselves around them as much as possible,” François said. “We did this during the school year, and I think we will continue to do so.”

Lasting change

At Rudsdale Newcomer High, schools start relatively late — 9:30 am — generally offering shorter hours, earning credits faster, and without homework and work experience credits. Batten-Bowman said she also keeps in touch with many student employers.

“I have talked to many managers and they said,’Hey, this student is about to graduate. Is there any way they can go to night shifts?'”

The demand here is high. Nate Dunstan, an administrator who provides services for new immigrants and refugees to the Oakland Unified School District, said that of the more than 1,800 unaccompanied minor students registered in the area in the past eight years, about 750 dropped out .

In many ways, schools are better prepared than most schools to adapt to a large number of working students. Batten-Bowman said, but the faculty still learned many lessons. Teachers are relaxing some deadlines and trying to strengthen communication channels with students to avoid anyone getting into trouble.

Dunstan also helps older working students in the area contact immigration lawyers more widely and apply for work permits. He said he hopes to hire another staff member to help immigrant students who drop out of school due to work.

In Alexandria, Virginia, the school district is taking the first step to try to provide students with similar flexibility. This spring, it created a new night school program specifically designed for English learners who work during the day—a first in the state.

This program is called an Alternative Pathway to Achievement and was developed by two teachers, Kellie Woodson and Jacqueline Rice, as a program for their master’s degree in Educational Leadership. They say that about a quarter of Hispanic students in the area drop out of school, and Hispanic boys are more likely to leave school early. When the pandemic started, this difference became more pronounced.

“Surprisingly, the attendance of students with very high attendance rates has dropped completely…in a virtual environment that you think is more accessible,” Woodson said.

Now, twice a week, teachers volunteer to teach a one-hour course on Zoom from 7 to 9 pm, specifically for English learners. Although Woodson and Rice began planning the plan in 2019, COVID-19 has pushed the region to implement the plan as soon as possible.

As for Diaz in Oakland, he is interviewing for a new job, this time loading FedEx boxes at the airport. His shift lasts from 6 pm to 2:30 am, but the commute time is only 15 minutes. He is looking forward to face-to-face summer courses.

“I am really happy because I understand better in face-to-face courses,” he said in Spanish. “And I think it will give me time to learn.”

One day, he wants to start his own construction company. Finding a new work/study balance after the pandemic is the first step in achieving this goal, and he is optimistic.

“Getting good grades, getting college credits, that’s what I want to do,” he said. “I’ll try it.”

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