It has taken foresight, planning and on-the-fly adaptation, but an all-girls dual-language South Bronx charter school has successfully made the transition to distance learning, and is even using the coronavirus crisis to build teaching skills and encourage students to express their feelings about the pandemic in verse.
I think you should remember
That it never rains forever.
Keep your head up tall
Don’t forget, we are the strongest ever.
That is how Ashlee Acevedo, an 8th grader at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls, The Shirley Rodriguez-Remeneski School (BGLIG), ends her poem “Fighting Together.”
“I am so proud of our girls, how they are dealing with this situation and how they are working through the challenges,” BGLIG Middle School Principal Carmen Umpierre said. “These young women are rising to the occasion, including those who must be caretakers at home for sick parents and younger brothers and sisters.”
Ms. Umpierre said Ashlee was inspired to write her poem as part of BGLIG’s focus on social emotional learning, an important offering at a school located in the nation’s poorest Congressional district. She added that middle school students have already moved on to studying Shakespeare, ahead of schedule.
BGLIG, which serves 450 students in grades K-8, is heading toward the close of the most tumultuous year in public school history having successfully transitioned to distance learning. The school has made sure that every student has access to a chrome book or laptop, except for K-1 students who are working with instructional packets sent home on a regular basis.
In addition, teachers have been able to take professional development classes on-line from Harvard and have taken advantage of the new skill-broadening opportunities presented by the pandemic shutdown, as well as coaching sessions to address technological challenges.
“This pandemic has created changes in our daily work life. We have had to adjust to the changes in order for our students to continue learning. What has really worked for me is the support and communication provided between the coaches and teachers,” said 4th Grade Spanish teacher Yasalenny Peralta.
BGLIG Elementary School Principal Courtne Thomas said it has been a “team effort.”
“We have teams and systems in place for every aspect of our school, from academic to enrichment and supplemental services to behavior. We have teams tracking data, attendance, student progress, parent outreach and overall support, and running logs for every area. It’s working well,” Ms. Thomas said.
Attendance has become more robust over the course of the shutdown and now exceeds 90 percent. High school acceptances recently came out and 18 of 44 graduating 8th graders – or 41 percent – were accepted into their first-choice school, eight students were accepted into specialized music and arts programs, and one student going on to attend the selective program at Thatcher School.
BGLIG is known for its dance and music programs, particularly its renowned String Orchestra, which has performed at Carnegie Hall and Yankee Stadium, and this year was part of a Grammy nomination for the school’s former music director.
“We have been heartened and encouraged by the dedication of our entire BGLIG community, including teachers, students and parents and caregivers,” said Board Chair Alana Barran. “Our transition to distance learning has gone well and our school community has remained strong. This speaks to the strength of our BGLIG family and the unique character of our student body, parent community and staff members.”
Along with providing a high-quality classroom education to its students, BGLIG is also home to “Joe’s Violin,” which was the subject of a 2017 Academy Award-nominated documentary about Joseph Feingold, a Holocaust survivor who in 2014 donated his violin to the school as part of an instrument-donation drive started by classical radio station WQXR.
Mr. Feingold acquired the violin in 1947, in return for a carton of American cigarettes, while living in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Mr. Feingold died last month at age 97 due to complications of COVID-19. His obituary could be read here.
Here is Ashlee Acevedo’s entire poem:
The Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls, The Shirley Rodriguez-Remeneski School (BGLIG) is a free, dual-language public school educating young women in grades K-8. We are committed to providing our girls with a rigorous instructional program while building on their leadership characteristics and instilling strong values. BGLIG (pronounced BIG league) promotes self-confidence and creates global leaders in all areas: cognitive, social, emotional and moral. Our programs allow each student to disengage from traditional social pressures and focus on personal development and academic achievement. BGLIG’s goal of developing college ready girls includes enrichment programs in the performing arts.
Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls
The Shirley Rodriguez-Remeneski School
750 Concourse Village West
Bronx, NY 10451