Families in Camden work hard to prepare for the new school norm

After careful review, it became very apparent that it is necessary to address the title of an article that was currently published in some of South Jersey’s top publications that did what, let’s be honest, what MOST publications do and twisted a story to portray Camden in the same old “dark” and victimizing way. While there were many moments in the article that were positive and highlighted some of the great things being done in our community to prepare for the new and somewhat unpredictable school year, that title almost diminishes the work being done. What was supposed to be an opportunity to uplift and motivate a community turned into another sob story that left many Camden residents unimpressed and straight up angry. The headline read “Remote School No Simple Task” ok, this seems accurate, but wait, here it goes, the subline: Poor families in Camden and elsewhere can struggle with online instruction. “Poor?” There are a lot of words that could have been used to describe the family pictured on the front page of that article: strong, resilient, hardworking, dedicated even… but “poor?” For this and many other reasons it’s clear that while responding may set the story straight, controlling the narrative and constructing a piece that depicts the true POWER within the community that is Camden would be more effective.

Usually every year in early September we can expect a bombardment of pictures taking over social media. Imaged showing kids in their freshly iron crisp uniforms, brand new shoes, shiny moisturized foreheads and extra-large bookbags that almost appear bigger than them. This year however, in true 2020 fashion, those pictures were very different. Due to COVID restrictions outlined by Governor Phil Murphy most students and schools are now preparing to begin the school year remotely and engage in virtual learning. Instead of the typical first day of school pictures, parents shared learning boards, living rooms full of kids in different areas and complete families tuned in at their dinner tables almost reminiscent of family straight out of a 1960’s sitcom (only with computers). Throughout the day some parents shared their concerns about being able to adequately assist their students while most chimed in embracing the challenges that the new school year would bring posting, “Virtual, remote, in school, whatever… WE GOT THIS.” In all, the first day of school was unique to say the least and will be referred to in history books to come.

Families all over the city have gone into overtime to attempt to prepare for the most unpredictable school years ever. One parent, Danielle Crudup, a single mom who works as an assistant manager has had a little less time to prepare for the year since her children started remote learning the week of August 24th. As a single parent Danielle, like many single parents in the city, has been left with no choice but to ‘make it work’ and nothing else. Since March she, like many other parents in the city has had to find new and interesting ways to maintain employment while still holding a high bar for her children to perform academically from home. Whether it be dropping her 8th and 2nd graders off to their grandmother during her long work days or even taking her children to work with her to keep a closer eye on them throughout the school day, she has had to alter her entire schedule to make time for her children while also providing for them. The decision between work and family has unfortunately become one that many families have had to make, and not all have been as fortunate as Ms. Harris. Some families throughout the city have had to cut time or even leave their places of employment due to their inability or reluctance to support employees with children. Still, in true Camden fashion they have no choice but to be resilient.

As the school year picks up one thing that is a reality for parents is that nothing is certain. As more students log in to their virtual classrooms around the country new problems arise technology stops working, Zoom goes completely out of commission, wireless connections weaken and still students must be taught. The only sure way to maneuver through it all is flexibility, grace and that real Camden grit that moves mountains.

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