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East Side Faces Coronavirus: A Developing Story

by Tigerlily Theo Hopson

11th Grade

“Did y’all go to school?”

“Corona walkout.”

“Today people weren't supposed to go to school. Seniors planned it.”

“There’s 5 people in my English class.”

This is what I woke up to on Friday, March 14 at a quarter before nine o’clock: grey text bubbles silhouetted against my cracked iPhone screen that made one thing clear— the coronavirus scare had made its way to East Side.

I had spent that past week at home, frantically emailing teachers for school assignments as my mom groaned about her chest constricting and my brother jumped around the house like a lunatic. My mom had experienced, and still experiences, coronavirus like symptoms, such as a slight fever, earache, headache, and breathing problems. I had some of these symptoms as well, although to a lesser degree. My mom tried to get a coronavirus test, spending five hours in the closest hospital, but was turned away. Despite what they say on the news, to get a test in New York City is as possible as going through a year at East Side without hearing the word “growth mindset.”

Teenagers around the nation are waking up to news alerts and texts about the coronavirus, dry coughs, and a turbulent reality that is not giving anybody any answers. So, what does this mean for East Side Community School? On Friday, March 13th, Principal Mark Federman sent out an email addressing the school’s action plan around this pandemic. He outlined how starting Monday the 16th, East Side will move to an online learning curriculum. Two days later, that Sunday, he alerted East Side families that New York City schools were officially closed until April 20th.

This may bring hardship to many families who rely on the school for shelter or food, but according to Mark’s email, “grab and go” meals will be available from 8:00am to 1:30pm at all public schools, and that the DOE plans to open Regional Enrichment Centers to assist any students who really need a place to be during the day.

All classes will move onto Google Classroom, and this online curriculum will start officially on Wednesday, March 18th. Monday was deemed a “snow day,” despite the sunny skies and 50 degree temperature, or in other words a day for schools to continue organizing and students to prepare for the next month of virtual learning. Those who don’t have a computer, will be loaned one by the school, hopefully by the 18th.

On Tuesday, Giselle relayed the disappointing news that all international trips, including the Week Without Wall trip Dominica, have been officially canceled by the DOE. In Mark’s email on March 13th, he also informed the school that domestic trips, which include the trip to New Orleans, were also canceled by the DOE. For daily updates about the coronavirus please look at the DOE’s website.

As of Sunday, it is official that schools are closed, but many students already planned to stay home for the next couple weeks, and had missed school last week. According to a student who works at the main office, 255 kids did not go to school on Friday. Sakura, an East Side student, said, “I didn’t go to school on Friday. My mom was afraid of me going out and coming back sick. I have a 7 year old and two 8 month old sisters and can’t afford to get them sick.” Thalia, one of the few students that did go to school, said, “It was really empty, only like 5 kids in every class including myself.”

Lavon, an 11th grader at East Side, was glad of the shift to online learning even before the official closure of schools by the DOE. “If East Side did not suspend in-person classes, many of us would not be able to be at home to babysit our younger siblings whose schools HAVE been closed, and that would force our parents to stay home and lose pay,” he said.

For most students, the coronavirus seems to be something that will pass, and that it is unlikely to have very much of an effect on them, even with the closing of schools. For others, the coronavirus may leave long term effects. Charli, an 11th grader with a compromised immune system, explained how she did not go to school last week because her parents didn't think it was worth the risk, and so is grateful classes have been shifted online. Despite the threats of the coronavirus she says, “I am not afraid of the virus. If I get it, I guess I’ll just go to the hospital and hope I don’t die.”

Out of everyone I spoke with, no one said that they were directly afraid of the coronavirus. No matter their circumstances teenagers know this is a passing peril. Louis, another 11th grader, pointed out, “I’m not going to be afraid of something I cannot control.” These next couple weeks may prove to be increasingly rocky, but students know East Side will guide them through, one step at a time.

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