California Educator

June/July 2020

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How educators are helping communities of color hit harder by the virus H E N T H E C O V I D - 19 pandemic closed classrooms in California in mid-March, Rori Abernethy, like many educators, was concerned that schools wouldn't be able to remain connected with all students. She was disturbed to hear that administrators at various school sites did not have current phone numbers for their students, particularly those whose family or living situations are challenging or who have issues around attendance. Many of these are students of color. "It shocked me that schools didn't know kids' contact info," says Abernethy, a member of both the San Fran- cisco Alliance of Black Educators and United Educators of San Francisco, and math teacher at Denman Middle School. "If you know these kids have a problem, you make sure you get their number. Every single kid, even if their parent changes phones all the time or is living somewhere else, has a number. You have to ask them." She notes that Denman administrators, counselors and paraprofessionals did wellness checks on students long before San Francisco Unified asked. But she knows the African American and Latinx communities have been hit hard by COVID-19, both medically and economically, and many of her students are coping with even more dif- ficulties than usual. Like her fellow educators around the country, she's doing her best to keep students learning. Preexisting condition: structural racism Racial and socioeconomic disparities have been thrown into stark relief as a result of COVID-19. People of color and those with low income are coping with economic Rori Abernethy at Denman Middle School graduation with several students, who are from Georgia (Eastern Europe), Samoa and East Oakland. W 32 Reaching, Teaching All Students covid-19 feature C O V I D - 1 9

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