Once We Beat the Coronavirus, Let's End the Pandemic in Our Public Schools

Mar 20, 2020 12:00:00 AM

by Tanesha Peeples

Here’s something to take our minds off occasional thoughts of the world ending—thoughts probably caused by hallucinations from inhaling the Lysol we’re spraying hourly to keep COVID-19 out of our houses and obsessing over dreadful updates that seem to come in every other second.  

Sarah Carpenter—one of my absolute favorite people in life and bomb ass education activist—reminded me that we can’t lose sight of one crisis in light of the current one. She said, “Now may be the time to show failing schools we are not sending our children back. #Periodt.”


I feel Ms. Sarah to the fullest. At the end of this people will have realized how strong they are, how to survive with, in some cases, the bare minimum and how to be resourceful and successful in educating their kids. So why should we send them back to schools that are failing them?

Normally—and in my increased desire to be the most disruptive—I’d co-sign this message because I’m tired of trying to exercise faith in what sometimes seems to be a hopeless situation and system. But in [pullquote]watching our local and national leaders magically pull rabbits out of hats to support every American during this crisis, I’m ready to go even harder on them to do the same for our kids’ education.[/pullquote]

Currently, our state and local governments and school districts are doing everything they can to mitigate these circumstances—that’s not lost on me. 


But the jury is still out on the federal government’s efforts, despite daily press conferences from President Trump saying stuff like, “...people are dying that have never died before.” 


Now listen, I’ve heard some dumb statements in my life but this one takes the cake!

In my own city, Chicago Public Schools are responding similarly to other districts by providing food to all Chicago families, given that we have a  high population of homeless and poor students who rely on the meals they receive at school.


I visited The Montessori School of Englewood—a school serving predominantly low-income families in my old community—earlier this week and learned their staff rushed to prepare daily coursework packets for their students and, considering the gap in access to internet service and technology, they’re using mobile applications to support learning. Teachers are required to check in with a set of assigned families at least twice a week and are sending daily videos with resources and community messages to help parents support their kids during this crisis.

And of course, I’ve activated the “Bat-Signal” for my fellow activists and advocates to put our heads together and come up with ways to support our communities on the ground. 


Everything from creating our own virtual classrooms to volunteering to hand out food to families came up. Hell, I risked my health leaving the house to take donations to The Montessori School of Englewood for students and families. I’m a little crazy when it comes to helping my people, y’all. LOL!

In this time of crisis and uncertainty, it’s been most hands on deck—well since we have to limit person-to-person contact, let’s just say it’s been most hearts and minds aligned. And that’s been beautiful. 

But in the midst of this “coming together,” I’m not going to front like I’m not concerned that things will go back to business as usual and when this is all said and done. And there will be even larger opportunity gaps because of makeshift educational supports and a substantial loss of academic time.

It’s been said that Black, Brown and low-income families will be hit hardest by the fallout from coronavirus. Turns out, we’ve also been the hardest hit by the pandemic of racism and bias in education—go figure!

But [pullquote]just imagine if we applied this crisis strategy to the ongoing crisis that is public education ...[/pullquote] 

We could end a pandemic that’s kept Black, Brown, low-income and special needs students under- and miseducated. We could end the cycle of poverty in communities of color. We could actually give all students access to the opportunities they need and deserve.

A year from now when federal and local governments try to say, “We ain’t got it” when students, parents, educators and activists ask them for equitable funding, we have to remind them of the coins they came up with to provide bailouts to banks, airlines and other industries.


When collaboration and communication between administrators, educators and communities starts to lapse, remember these times where we were working in tandem to support our students.

So long story short—when “The Rona” subsides we gotta keep this same energy! These are the progressive values and practices we’ve been waiting for our elected leaders to invoke. This is the community engagement we’ve desperately needed. This is what’s required to ensure all students and families are thriving in education. And now that we’ve seen what resources all of these entities really have to offer, nah—we’re not sending our kids back to failing schools or a failing system without them.

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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