Marion Woolf is a social worker in the Pawtucket school system. Last spring, because of covid, the Pawtucket schools closed down and went to virtual learning. In September, four schools reopened to staff and select student populations. At that time, Marion was working out of the middle school two days a week. Her home school is Shea High School. At present 95% of students are experiencing distance learning via Google Meet. Each student was issued a laptop. Some students are back in the classroom. They are the very young and special needs students.
From the spring to the present, Marion is only able to reach out to her students either on Google Meet, via cell phone or by email. This has been very challenging! Sometimes the students aren’t home or have misplaced their laptop, so Marion has to reach them on their cell phone. Many of the students are struggling, and falling behind. They need to be in a school environment with a teacher in the room to achieve. The distance learning is not effective for everyone. When Marion reaches out to the students, she often is unable to see their faces, since they don’t join with video. She will ask them, “can you show me your face for just a minute, so I can see to whom I’m speaking.” Sometimes they comply. Because so many students are struggling, there have been several additional referrals to the school psychologist and to her. So, her workload has become much heavier. It’s taking much more time and effort to coordinate services for these youths. Marion is familiar with the students that she had worked with prior to the pandemic, but with the new referrals and new students, she often does not know with whom she’s communicating.
Marion’s biggest stress is that it’s hard to fit everyone in because of the heavier case load. She worries about the kids. Several of the children live in crowded housing with several families in one apartment. It’s been tough!
The School Department has been working very hard to make the school environment safe. They’ve done a thorough cleaning, and placed Hepa filters into the schools. So during the week of February 1, the select student population will be back to their home school. Marion hopes that being back at Shea High School will make her work more manageable. When it’s time to meet with a student, she can go to the classroom and fetch the child. Meeting them in person will be more effective. She can coordinate plans for each student with the school psychologist. Marion will more easily be able to interact and confer with her colleagues.
Marion recently recovered from covid. She was sick for about 2 weeks. She mainly experienced stomach and intestinal issues. Fortunately, she never got so sick that hospitalization became necessary. Marion is looking forward to getting vaccinated. Life has been difficult this past year, as her husband and older son also got sick with covid in July. They, too, were able to recover at home. Since last November, her younger son has been away at Boot Camp. His graduation is coming up. It’s very disappointing that she and her family won’t be able to attend.
To keep balanced, Marion exercises following an online video, and she’s been doing a lot of walking. Chatting with colleagues is helpful. She finds it a blessing to have more family time with her husband and older son. Marion is looking forward to getting back to her regular routine, being able to meet with extended family, and being able to go out! She’s used to going places and doing things such as going to the theatre, and attending PC basketball games.
Marion is grateful that they all have jobs, and have been able to work throughout the pandemic, albeit virtually.