Rather than depending on the city’s timeline for device distribution, MELS decided to give out its own classroom laptops, allowing students to make adjustments to the habits and technology they need for distance learning as quickly as possible.
By mid-April, the school had dispensed the majority of its computers, and the parent coordinator was helping families navigate device requests to the Department of Education (DOE).
Among the remaining computers at school are those with missing keys that can’t connect to the internet, making them effectively unusable for students when they return to the building.
With a multitude of unknowns surrounding the format of next school year, a collaborative fundraising effort between the teacher’s union, PTA and administration is looking to replace MELS’ dwindled supply of devices through
“We need these computers as a way to think sustainably for our future,” said eighth-grade ELA teacher Gus Jacobson, who also played a part in organizing the fundraiser. “We are not a school where every classroom has its own laptop supply.”
Jacobson said that it takes a lot of coordination and flexibility from teachers to make sure that students are able to complete necessary assignments and projects.
Furthermore, a survey of the MELS student body, which is made up of more than 700 students from Forest Hills, Rego Park, Corona and Jamaica, found that only 12.3 percent were satisfied with the school’s computers, and only 3 percent were confident that the devices reliably work.
“We plan lessons to accommodate for troubleshooting and problem solving when it comes to technology,” Jacobson explained.
Moving forward, it is possible that schools may need to transition to periods of remote learning, meaning that MELS will have to expand its technological curriculum and ensure the capacity for all students to engage.
This is particularly important for a Title I school like MELS, where many students have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
Also critical for the future, says Jacobson, is the ability for MELS to complement the school’s education in response to profound global events, such as the coronavirus crisis and the current protests against police brutality, with videos, articles and other digital elements.
“MELS is deeply moved and impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Jacobson. “And so as we are actively enhancing our efforts to improve access to technology, we are also looking to improve how we educate on anti-racism.
“We make sure that how we teach students is responsive to who they are,” he added. “Every decision I’ve seen made from the bottom up, in big and small ways, is for the students and their families.”