The job of middle-school principal was always difficult but never more so than during COVID-19. As the founding principal of Success Academy Hollis Middle School, I have seen our teachers, scholars and parents rise to the occasion as never before. Our teachers built genuine relationships with their students and families while working remotely. In this unprecedented time, we created a true sense of pride and connection to the school we built together.
For us, Hollis is not just a building and classrooms — it’s a community. I recently dropped in on an online classroom to watch our young scholars engaged in a group project. As students tackled the academic task at hand, they broke down the problem and came up with a solution. Proud of their work and teamwork, I told them how well they did. Without missing a beat, a student replied, “We do work well together, and I can’t wait until we meet in person.”
Yet now, we’re on the verge of losing it all. That’s because Mayor Bill de Blasio is about to take our school away from us. School officials in his administration missed a critical deadline last week that essentially left our 250 kids without a home.
Our students were granted temporary, one-year co-location space at IS 238 Susan B. Anthony Academy for this school year, allowing the Department of Education more time to find them a permanent home. It’s been almost a year now, but the city has failed to find the space for them.
Disrupted by the pandemic, our students have never even set foot in a classroom at IS 238. As it now stands, students expecting to attend SA Hollis next year will not have an educational home for 2021-22, when we’re expecting to welcome our kids back on campus for in-person instruction.
For all our teachers, children and parents, the thought of losing our school is devastating. Families know they can count on our school community to support them and prioritize their child’s education even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Our entire school team has gone above and beyond to create magical classrooms on Zoom so our scholars can learn and grow. Teachers prepare thoughtful and engaging lessons and prioritize not just content but connection.
Our scholars have been very successful — even while learning remotely. They smile when they log in to their digital classrooms and love to show what they know. They jump at opportunities to shine, from co-hosting our middle-school morning show to participating in community circles and joining study sessions. They have made our school come alive online.
Meanwhile, our steadfast parents have spent four years pleading with the mayor for a permanent middle school for their children. Since 2017, parents have sent thousands of e-mails, secured thousands of signatures on petitions and met with many Queens elected officials — all in an effort to get the mayor to be accountable to their children. Our families consistently show up for our school community when it matters most.
Parents shouldn’t have to do this. Their daily lives are difficult enough trying to manage this extraordinarily challenging time. All they want is to make sure their children receive a first-rate education and watch the Hollis Huskies walk through the doors of their academic home at the start of the school year.
It’s the mayor’s legal responsibility to provide public-charter students with a space to learn — and he still has viable options. He also has a moral obligation to make sure that all New York City children get the education they deserve.
As we strive to make sure disadvantaged children have the same opportunities as their more affluent peers, it’s the responsibility of all of us to make sure we open educational doors instead of closing them.
Mr. Mayor, please don’t let our children down again.
Kaleigh Maines is the principal at Success Academy Hollis Middle School.
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