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How do we rebuild a sense of community? A Brooklyn school seeks to find joy and connection

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Original article written by Alex Zimmerman for CHALKBEAT

For many families, the emotional scars and learning disruptions are intertwined due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Those crises served as an early warning of the devastation many members of the community would experience and foreshadowed the ways in which the school would respond with an all-hands approach.

The staff at P.S. 89 knows the trauma and disruption of the past year will linger. As a school that has focused for years on fostering deep ties with families and deploying wraparound services, Principal Irene Leon is optimistic in the school’s ability to meet the moment.

P.S. 89 will launch a weeklong set of outdoor team-building activities at the nearby Highland Park, a space where the school can gather more of the community at once, given uncertainty about social distancing rules within schools this fall. She hopes the outdoor activities will ease students back and help them form social bonds that may have atrophied during the pandemic.

Those activities will also give the staff a sense of where students are emotionally and what their interests may be. Although P.S. 89 has a longstanding advisory program for its middle school students, Leon is hoping to tweak the program to group students more intentionally by their passions or needs based on what staff glean in that initial week, boosting the odds that students will quickly form bonds with each other and at least one caring adult.

Once they settle into classrooms, some will find they have two teachers instead of one, thanks to a boost in the school’s budget and money that Leon was able to roll over from last year.

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