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A Year Ago – remembering

April 8, 2021 pm30 6:01 pm

By April 6, 2020 my world was on its head. COVID was in NYC. I had decamped to near Lake Champlain. I was teaching, or trying to teach, via a computer. It was hard. And it was exhausting. And the news was relentless. Trump was horrible, but de Blasio and Cuomo were behaving like clowns – but clowns whose decisions affect millions of lives. It was too much. I’d lost a second cousin to the pandemic, but I didn’t know yet. And a colleague had passed in an auto accident a week earlier – maybe the trip was somehow connected. An alumni’s father died on the 4th. A peace officer at my school died on the 4th.

My school was started in 2002. I was there from the first. it is a specialized high school. But in those first years the student body was fairly integrated. A few years later we saw a shift, slow at first, and then not slow. We became one of the whitest NYC public high schools outside of Staten Island. There is a story there, a long one, about getting the faculty then our school community on board to address this, and the progress we have – and importantly – have not made. But that’s for another time.

I mention the segregation issue to mention one initiative in particular: our Local Outreach Tutoring Program (LOT). We started LOT four years ago. Me and some students did outreach to local middle schools, more or less walking distance from my school. Kids come after school, we do some activity, then some math enrichment and ELA enrichment. Sometimes there’s SHSAT test prep. And when I say “we” I mean our juniors and seniors. They organize, plan, and teach/tutor.

When I heard a Bronx AP had died from COVID-19 on on April 6, 2020, I checked to see the name and the school. It was my LOT contact from 95. I did not know her well. We met once, when I visited their school. We corresponded occasionally. But an educator. With a family. About my age.

I was fortunate to be near woods. I went outside, and walked, and breathed. Deep breaths. Empty shelves of toilet paper were strange. People dying was frightening, overwhelming. I was glad to be far away. I told myself I was safe. But I was alone.

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