Caring for the Campus

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Jitinder and ECC Staff with Face MasksLike all Bronx Community College classrooms, the Early Childhood Center went totally virtual virtually overnight in mid-March, teaching the College’s littlest scholars via distance learning on Zoom. But with the Fall Semester has come the careful reopening of the campus for the select few majors with lab components that could not be done online. That meant the return of BCC’s accredited preschool as well.

“We re-opened on the first day for parents who were taking classes on campus in nursing and radiology,” said ECC Director Jitinder Walia. “The President was there, the Provost, Vice President Irene R. Delgado. They all came.

“We started with four children who started coming to the Children’s Center regularly. That may seem like “just four,” but to those families we made a difference. We have masks, we have shields — we even have shields for children, little goofy ones with animals on them. I am so impressed that these little kids keep their masks on all day every day.

“At the same time we still have about 80 who are doing remote instruction. Our families can’t afford to hire private tutors. So we designed a whole program we call our Academic Success Academy. My staff does one-on-one tutoring with pre-school children and those who graduated from pre-K in the spring and are now in kindergarten. Those kids got only half a year of a pre-K education and we knew they and their parents would need the support.”

The tutoring is also available for older kids in the families ECC serves — and it’s more than just helping with homework. “It’s also asking ‘How are you doing?’ Because they are not doing well. There is an emotional aspect of all of this that is very hard for them.”

And in this time of crisis, Director Walia and her staff are attending to the most basic needs of the EEC families. “We’ve added what we called ‘compassion meals.’ Every Tuesday I get a delivery of about 250 shelf-to-table meals. We meet the parents right outside the Center or the College gates and give them the meals. If they don’t have the transportation to come here, we give them personal deliveries.”

The staff is also looking out for their own well-being. “We all got tested when we started, and we have committed to each other that we’ll get tested once a month. We are being careful and mindful about the safety of each other. The only way we are going to defeat this pandemic is as a college, as a society — if we all care about each other.

“We are working on a staggered schedule. Most of us go to the Center two to three days a week. There are eight or nine of us at a time instead of the usual 28. But we are so happy to see each other, maintaining the social distancing but at the same time being able to talk about what’s going on. I am truly proud of an amazing staff.”

As far as the curriculum, little has changed, in the Center or online. “We still have our music teacher, the yoga teacher, the puppeteer. Because we want to make sure that the children have some sort of normalcy in not so normal times.

“I can’t say that I’m happy working like this. It’s not the same. Eight kids are nothing like a hundred kids, hustling and bustling, parents coming inside the building and sitting in the lounge and relaxing and me going into every classroom and seeing all these kids. I miss that, we all miss that. But we know this too shall pass. And we are so grateful to have the support of everybody on campus.”

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