“While 2020 is over, I’m still yearning for normalcy … for the sound of small voices and screechy sneakers in the hallway of my school, the Oliver Wendell Holmes Innovation School in Boston,” Lexy Marsh writes in a new op-ed that just ran in the Boston Herald.
Marsh is a City Connects Coordinator who has been working through the pandemic, to support students and their families.
At the heart of this work, Marsh explains, is building relationships — even in the middle of a pandemic.
“…I have had to learn how to connect with and support students and families from afar. I see hundreds of students every day online,” she writes.
“In our school, 86% of our students have high needs; 77% are economically disadvantaged; 30% are homeless; and all qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Those are last year’s numbers. This year, the pandemic is bringing new waves of poverty and illness that are not yet quantified.”
Marshalling community resources remains an essential part of Marsh’s job:
“During this winter, for instance, my colleagues and I were concerned with the rise in numbers of our homeless families, and worried that our usual community partners would not have the capacity to respond to those families’ needs. In response, my colleagues and I launched a donation drive, contacting local businesses and eventually securing more than $3,000 in donations and 45 gift bags containing food, clothes, toys, books and winter gear for those families. I’ve delivered work packets to children without internet service and teachers at my school have visited students’ homes to get them logged on to Zoom. I have seen school staff perform countless other acts that are not viewed as going ‘above and beyond’ but rather as a part of our job.”
Marsh’s next goal? She’s excited to welcome students back to school.
“I miss doing this work face to face, seeing a child come into school with a new winter coat I helped him to get, seeing a smile on a face that has worn too many frowns, seeing a struggling reader begin to read fluently because of her teacher’s skill and my help to coordinate community resources to make sure that she had food at home, and got needed new eye glasses.”
“When I think about returning to school, it is my hope that I will again be able to see my students roaming the halls, dropping into my office to say hello, or quietly mentioning a challenge at home. It is my hope that the stronger relationships we’ve built with families through Zoom and home visits will continue to grow.”
Marsh is looking forward to shifting from loss and tragedy to strengthening and rebuilding:
“ I believe that, in spite of the frustrating challenges that COVID-19 has caused my colleagues and me, that when school returns, we will be better positioned to support our students than ever before because of new relationships — with students’ families, new community partners and others. It is through new and established relationships that we will rebuild a better system for all of our students.”
We’re confident that Marsh is right. City Connects’ staff have learned vital lessons from the pandemic, and these lessons make the case that a systemic approach to providing integrated student support builds relationships, resiliency, and readiness.