oped letters & comments
BY MIRIAM RACCAH AND
When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced
the closure of all school buildings
on March 15 during the height of
the pandemic, it became clear to educators
everywhere that this year would
be unlike any other. Where classrooms
were once intimate, nurturing places
for children who need support most,
schools would transform themselves
into distance learning environments.
In the initial months, many wrote
off remote learning. It was declared a
failure. And yet it’s become a lasting
reality: roughly half of all public school
children in our city are now learning
virtually this school-year.
As educators, with our children’s
futures at stake, we know that we must
succeed. Since that day back in March,
our schools have learned a lot about
how to do remote learning well, developing
comprehensive best practices —
ones that we want every educator to
Because we are all in this together.
What are those best practices? At
our schools, success starts with communication.
We have used this moment
to reimagine our relationship with our
parents. We’ve taken the time to gain
an even deeper understanding of their
individual situations. Did they lose a
loved one? Are families facing tenuous
fi nancial circumstances? Did they
have the social support they needed—
food, housing, and more—in this time
of urgent need?
We’ve found that success at remote
learning and supporting each child
necessitates actively understanding
those answers. In fact, our frequent
communication with families has actually
brought us closer to each student,
something that will benefi t us long after
COVID is a thing of the past.
Next, embracing technology — not
passively accepting it — matters. The
pandemic has exhibited to the world
that the digital divide is real. In the
Bronx alone, in the communities our
public charter schools serve, 38% of
households lacked high-speed internet
prior to COVID.
But once we scrambled to secure
learning devices for our children back
in March, today we’re able to deploy
new learning tools like never before.
Virtual fi eld trips, remote museum visits,
virtual college tours, and more—it
all became available because the digital
divide has narrowed.
Remote learning is truly an opportunity
for educators everywhere to reinvent
their lessons and capitalize the
rich array of online resources by integrating
them into student learning experiences.
Going forward in a post-COVID
world, academic work is now something
that can be done everywhere, at
every hour. In the future, students will
have access to their lessons and materials
24/7 via the cloud and their devices.
And if students are sick for a day or absent
for a longer time, they may no longer
risk missing lessons.
Embracing online teaching tools today
will benefi t in-person learning tomorrow.
And despite our distance, virtual
classrooms have shown why the arts
and music are more important than
ever. They deliver critical enrichment
that enhances all other academic learning.
Dance gives students the exercise
they desperately need from home. Music
can enliven the virtual academic
schedule. Drawing and painting can
bring out the innate creativity that exists
in all of our kids. Both art and technology
can help with problem-solving.
But most importantly, the arts provide
kids an opportunity to express
themselves that they may otherwise
not have. It’s a chance for them to connect
with their friends and peers that is
unlike the traditional academic experience
– made more diffi cult by current
And as the pandemic has shown,
schools are truly the anchors of the
neighborhoods we serve. But despite
our distance, our schools must maintain
Educational events – family trivia
nights, movie nights, virtual “show
and tell”, and more – can serve dual
purposes. They can transmit academic
information, provide new learning
experiences, and increase student attendance,
while also simultaneously
bringing school communities closer together
at a time when everyone needs
We all must be creative in our approaches,
and we must celebrate success
And most importantly, we need to
meet students where they are. Given
the incredibly challenging circumstances
experienced by families, alternative
assignments, one-on-one time,
and communication outside traditional
school hours must be delivered to students
on a schedule that works best for
them. Just as we must always differentiate
instruction in-person, educators
must also adjust the delivery of content
in settings based on the unique needs
of each child.
One size should not fi t all.
We all know that schools are a
source of stability for their communities,
and despite incredible obstacles,
all of us educators have to continue going
above and beyond for our communities.
We cannot let up.
Remote learning will likely be with
us for the months and years ahead.
And during this once-in-a-century
pandemic, a generation of children is
counting on us.
Miriam Raccah is Executive Director
at Bronx Charter School for the Arts and
Jessica Nauiokas is Head of School and
Founder at Mott Haven Academy Charter
BRONX TIMES REPORTER,BTR DECEMBER 18-24, 2020 13
LET US HEAR FROM YOU
Letters to the editor are welcome from all readers. They should be addressed care of this newspaper
to Laura Guerriero, Publisher, the Bronx Times Reporter, 3604 E. Tremont Ave., Bronx, NY 10465, or
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All letters, including those submitted via e-mail, MUST be signed and with a verifi able address and
telephone number included.
Note that the address and telephone number will NOT be published and the name will be published
or withheld upon request.
No unsigned letters can be accepted for publication. The editor reserves the right to edit all
Dear Bronx Times,
I was in total shock to see my house
on the front page of The Bronx Times
Reporter. What an honor. Thank you so
much, and thank you Annie Boller for a
Just a little background about our
house: My husband started decorating
our house the fi rst year we moved to Locust
Point, which was 1986. Every year,
he would add another item. He built all
of our animated fi gures.
I lost my husband this past April.
My son-in-law wanted to honor my husband,
James Lacas, by putting up all of
Jim’s decorations. My son-in-law had
some help from our nephew, who came
in from Long Island a couple of times to
Thank you again,
Girl participating in online education training class with teacher and other students using
laptop at home
To the editor,
As much as I disagree with Pasqual
Pelosi attacking the COMACTA columnist
week after week on these pages,
I must say the CC’s column in the
12/11/2020 BT/BTR is ludicrous.
The author discusses the alleged persecution
on Christians abroad. He cites
a source entitled “Open Doors,” with
nary an explanation as to who OD is. A
quick internet check reveals it to be an
organization attempting to address alleged
persecution of Christians. He cites
an alleged attack in Sri Lanka, fails to
mention who attacked who, and further
states 250 killed and 500 injured (he
doesn’t even state those attacked were
Christians). As horrifi c as the death of
even one Christian may be, 250 dead or
injured is hardly a fi gure that invokes
visions of genocide.
Later in his column, the COMACTA
columnist mentions how the various
courts, especially the 9th Circuit Court
of Appeals, issued rulings they had no
authority to issue on President Trump
exercising his executive authority, allegedly
with the approval various members
of the legal profession. It would be
nice if the CC would cite even one case,
individual or organization. It would be
nice if the CC columnist would state how
these judges are allegedly usurping authority.
It would be nice if he would tell
us how these organizations are siding
with the “federal usurpers.”
I don’t agree with Mr. Pelosi’s relentless
and apparently personal attacks on
the COMACTA columnist, Mr. Pelosi’s
boilerplate view of conservatives, and
his ridiculing two conservatives exercising
First Amendment rights and expressing
dissatisfaction with election
results. But I equally disagree with the
CC’s method of convenient fact gathering
and total lack of evidence supporting
his claims. Liberal, conservative
or centrist, those expressing opinions
in print should do so in a neutral, impartial,
fact-based manner and tell the
truth, the whole truth and nothing but
– Nat Weiner
BX educators on improving remote learning