CHICAGO (December 10, 2020) – COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on nearly every aspect of life in 2020, significantly changing how kids are learning and coping among the devastating effects of the pandemic – especially in Chicago’s communities of color.
This fall, WBEZ Chicago Education Reporter Sarah Karp embedded herself in Chicago’s Little Village, a Latino neighborhood where sickness, death and unemployment are inescapable realities. There is stress on parents and children alike. Nationally, evidence is mounting about student learning loss amid the pandemic, especially among vulnerable children. If they fall behind in school now, research shows, they might never catch up.
Karp followed a second-grade class at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, and their master teacher, Olga Contreras to try to answer this question: “Will these students be alright?”
Now, WBEZ Chicago will present Karp’s story as an audio documentary that will air Saturday, Dec. 12 at 9:30 a.m. on 91.5FM, and on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. It also will livestream on wbez.org. The story will be translated in Spanish and shared on the web sites for Univision and La Raza. WBEZ also plans to distribute a print version of the story in Spanish at sites in Little Village.
“Experts predict that learning loss during remote learning may be huge for many students, but going into this school year no one really knew for sure,” said Karp. “I wanted to see what online school was really like in a community where, like so many Black and Latino neighborhoods in Chicago, the pandemic is pervasive.”
Karp noted that students in the Saucedo second-grade class are up against a lot this year. They have only one year to become proficient readers in their native Spanish and also learn English, all made more challenging in a remote learning environment.
However, as the audio documentary reveals, Karp also notes these children are lucky. They go to a good school with a teacher like Contreras, an immigrant herself who understands what local families face. Contreras entered this school year determined and hoping for the best.
“Everything is going to be good. I don’t know how or why. Good or bad we are going to make it good,” Contreras says in the audio documentary.
Over the 23-minute audio documentary, Karp explores how online learning has rolled out at Saucedo this school year and seeks to understand the impact of the virus and how the community is coping among inordinate challenges.
Karp’s reporting project is supported thanks to the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being, a program of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2020 National Fellowship. She also was awarded a community engagement grant that allowed her to undertake this work.
In addition to the audio documentary about Contreras’ Saucedo classroom, Karp will present two subsequent features on WBEZ about education in Little Village.
One story will focus on a teacher and class at Infinity High School in Little Village to look at how the pandemic is impacting high schoolers. Another feature will follow a Little Village family with small children that has been devastated by COVID-19, including the loss of the family’s patriarch and several family members who have lost their jobs, leaving the family grieving and in financial distress. These features will air later this winter on WBEZ.
“This reporting brings alive in deeply human terms how the pandemic is changing lives and impacting Chicago’s most vulnerable communities,” said Kate Grossman, WBEZ’s senior editor for education.
Listeners and readers can follow along with Karp and WBEZ’s education coverage on wbez.org and on Twitter at @SSKedreporter, @WBEZeducation and @WBEZ.