Nearly all of the city’s teachers stopped reporting to schools two weeks ago, when remote learning began for the city’s 1.1 million public school children. But about 5,000 educators are staffing regional enrichment centers, open to children of essential workers who are still on the job.

“I honestly couldn’t put my head down at night knowing that if I couldn’t come, and somebody else couldn’t come, that could have been possibly a doctor who could have saved somebody’s life. So honestly, it was, just be knowing that I had to do my duty, and we’re in this for the children,” Danielle Keane said.

Keane is a site supervisor for the center at New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx — while also doing her regular job, remotely, as principal of P.S./M.S. 5 in the Bronx, without any extra pay. 7,700 students are attending the centers, fewer students than expected. Keane’s site has only about 25 students a day, but each of them has parents who cannot stay home: nurses, doctors, MTA workers, cops.

“The things they’re sharing, I mean several times they’re breaking down in the office just about the amount of people they’re losing and how helpful it has been that the students are coming home with the work completed, so they don’t have to worry about that end,” she said.

Students work on tablets or laptops to finish classwork for their regular school. After that’s done, they take part in art, physical education and other enrichment activities — at a distance. A giant poster of a sea turtle helps illustrate the concept of social distancing to younger students.

“One ran over and wanted to hug my leg and we were like, ‘Oh,'” she said. “We go through the same. We want to hug, we want to love, but let’s do it through cleaning our hands or signing out loud.”

Everyone entering the building has their temperature taken each day, Keane says, and the custodial staff is keeping the building extra clean. She understands if essential workers might be afraid to have their kids come here. She had her own doubts at first, but wants them to know it is a safe refuge for children.

“I was like, ‘Let me just test the waters. If I feel unsafe, then I’ll step out.’ And I go home now and I don’t even question it. I’m like, ‘Nope, let’s go,” Keane said.

Source: Spectrum News NY1 | The Bronx