Teachers Spring Into Action to Help Medical Workers During Coronavirus Pandemic

ByCatherine Gewertz

‘We Have to Do Something’

(Excerpt) Other districts have rallied to the cause by gathering supplies they had on hand. The Los Angeles Unified School District sent 100,000 N-95 masks to 10 area hospitals. District officials said they routinely order supplies like that as part of their planning for emergencies such as fires.

Teachers at KIPP schools in several cities coordinated projects to load trucks with medically useful supplies. Sean Tamarisk, who oversees science instruction in two KIPP elementary schools in Massachusetts, worked with staffers at five schools in Boston and Lynn, a half-hour’s drive north, to gather things from science classrooms—150 pairs of goggles and four packages of latex gloves—and deliver them to local health providers.

Sean Tamarisk, a teacher who oversees science instruction in Boston-area KIPP elementary schools, loaded plastic goggles and boxes of latex gloves into his car last week at the KIPP campus in Mattapan, Mass. Sean and other KIPP teachers rounded up supplies from their closed school buildings to donate to local hospitals caring for coronavirus patients.

Sean Tamarisk, a teacher who oversees science instruction in Boston-area KIPP elementary schools, loaded plastic goggles and boxes of latex gloves into his car last week at the KIPP campus in Mattapan, Mass. Sean and other KIPP teachers rounded up supplies from their closed school buildings to donate to local hospitals caring for coronavirus patients. —Photo courtesy of Sean Tamarisk

“I read in the Boston Globe that the Cambridge Health Alliance network needed [personal protective equipment] for their staff, and they mentioned goggles as one of those things. I thought, geez, we have a ton of those,” Tamarisk said.

He juggled the supplies project with his own work to get online learning up and running, and train teachers in Google Classroom. Most of his families are low-income, so he’s been working to get them internet access and troubleshooting technology issues. He’s still trying to figure out whether paper packets are going to work best, or whether he and his teachers can use technology to reach all students.

In New York City, Douglas Dukeman, a 7th grade science teacher at KIPP: Infinity Middle School, has been taking inventory of most of KIPP’s 15 elementary and middle schools in the city. He’s sending 100-plus bottles of hand sanitizer, 90 packs of Lysol wipes, 30 boxes of latex gloves and 175-plus pairs of lab goggles to local hospitals. And he’s getting his online teaching going, talking with parents and students.

Dukeman is active in healthcare issues in his Harlem community, serving on several boards. He knew this crisis would require an all-hands-on-deck approach, no matter how busy he was as a teacher.

“This is happening. We have to do something,” he said. “If we’re not going to be in school, there are all these supplies that are needed that are just sitting there in an empty public school building. What better thing to do than to donate these to the public hospitals?”

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