Faiqa Naqvi, a 15-year-old freshman at a public high school in New Jersey, logs in to her distance classes each night from Pakistan by the time zone before 9 o’clock.
Max Rodriquez, also at school in New Jersey, took his Advanced Placement history class for about two months from Guayaquil, Ecuador, a port city on the South American coast.
Max’s schoolmate, 16-year-old Naobe Maradiaga, took classes from northern Honduras.
In the midst of the pandemic, in a year when school was barely normal, administrators and teachers were grappling with a new, complex class: students accessing virtual classes from the outside. USA.
Faced with financial stress related to a home pandemic or the health needs of loved ones abroad, some students in immigrant communities are signing in to campus thousands of miles away.
It is not clear how common this practice is. But logging in abroad has become more and more popular since late fall, when comfort levels of air travel have increased and vacations are popular for overseas visits, especially. in immigrant communities, came up close, according to educators in New York and New Jersey and as far as Florida and California.
Some families report using the new mobility acquired through remote guidance to plan extended visits with loved ones they have not seen for years.
Others have temporarily left the country to take care of sick relatives, and some have told principals and teachers that they are sending their children overseas because they need help with childcare to continue working. work cannot do at home.
“Entirely new immigrants – they have the hardest,” said Aixa Rodriguez, who teaches English as a new language at a middle school in Manhattan. “They don’t have anyone here to help.”
At least one of her students has signed in from outside the US in the past few months.
Nate Floro, a high school teacher in Brooklyn, says three of his students have logged into the classroom from Yemen, Egypt and the Dominican Republic.
Ms. Rodriguez said this practice is an open secret among teachers as parents struggle to figure out the limited number of days and hours that students engage in direct instruction and the ongoing threat of closure. School related to Covid-19.
“The reality is that parents cannot resolve this contradiction,” said Ms. Rodriguez, who lives in the Bronx and leader of a social equity advocacy group in the Teachers’ Association, MORE, or the Educators Movement. ratings and records. “These parents have to work and have no choice.”
Her willingness to put a child in the care of a loved one in another country in the midst of a pandemic, she said, “tells you about unmet need and desperation”.
By adding a degree of complexity to distance learning, this model has the potential to cause learning loss, especially in poor and minority communities that have been hampered by the approximate level of complexity, experts say. way of achievement.
“There’s one thing to say that kids can sign in anytime, anywhere,” said Mike Magee, chief executive officer of Chiefs for Change, a national nonprofit network of educational leaders. “But if they went somewhere where they needed to log in at 2 a.m., that doesn’t seem ideal.”
Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for New York City’s public schools, the country’s largest district where classes are currently open to all ages of students, said she could not provide data on students. can login from outside.
In New Jersey, officials from two of the state’s largest counties, Paterson and Elizabeth, were able to provide snapshots of students logging in from IP addresses outside of the United States. Schools in both cities have been closed for more than a year and all instruction is provided remotely; Elizabeth was expected to reopen to a few students next week, but Paterson reversed plans to re-start live instruction on May 3 and not set a return date.
In Paterson, a recent one-day sampling of 5,400 students found 306 children logged in from abroad, deputy superintendent Susana Peron said. The district educates nearly 25,000 K-12 students, and the actual number of students learning from outside the United States could be much higher.
“Of course we don’t recommend that,” said Peron. “But the families here have faced so many challenges in the pandemic.”
“I want them to learn from anywhere, anytime,” she added, “better than nothing.”
Elizabeth, a city of 129,000 inhabitants about 20 miles southwest of Midtown Manhattan, is one of the richest immigrant communities in the state. More than 75% of families speak languages other than English at home and nearly a fifth of residents report incomes below the poverty line, census data show.
On one day in early March, 679 of the district’s nearly 28,000 public school students logged in from outside the US, spokesman Pat Politano said. A few weeks later, a few days before the start of the week-long spring break, 767 students – about 2.7% of the students – had taken classes from one of 24 countries, records show.
Most of them are regulated from the Caribbean countries; The Dominican Republic is the most popular. But there is one child in each place in Kenya, Moldova and Bangladesh. Five students – including Faiqa – were in Pakistan.
“I have some problems with my house,” Faiqa said in one of the email series, “so I have to go to Pakistan for a while.”
She and her sister and parents left New Jersey in early March and plan to return April 20 Due to time differences in a 7,000-mile country, Faiqa ended her virtual lessons around 9:30 p.m. everyday.
“It was difficult for me,” she said. However, one teacher said that Faiqa, who hopes to become a doctor, is often the first to answer questions.
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States have residency regulations that require students to live in the school district in which they attend.
But providing flexibility regarding a child’s physical position in the virtual teaching process is appropriate and legal, as long as the child has a household registration in the district and plans to return, Bruce D. Baker, a national expert on teaching funding at Rutgers, said the Graduate School of Education.
Taendra Peralta said she decided to bring her 4-year-old and 14-year-old to the Dominican Republic for a month so they get rid of the monotony of learning online from an apartment in Elizabeth – and get help with care. take care of children. from relatives there. “There is more space for the kids, more space,” she said.
In Elizabeth, families have to prove that they rent or own property in order to be granted access to the international sign, Mr. Politano said, and they must provide proof of a return date.
“Students must aspire to be educated when they log on to schools from Egypt or Kenya,” he said. “It takes the dedication of the teachers, staff, the school board and administrators to make that a reality.”
Some teachers have said erratic Wi-Fi is the most common problem foreign children face.
But Mr. Floro said students frequently contact him when their internet access returns, looking for guidance or homework guidance; Two out of three students who sign in from outside the US are doing well or better than their classmates in Brooklyn, he said.
Mr. Floro, who teaches English as a new language and Arabic to native speakers at a Bensonhurst high school, said: “A lot of them, if they don’t speak to me, I will even I do not recognize.
In New York City, officials say students can log in from anywhere in the world without special clearance.
“We recognize that the challenges of the pandemic may have temporarily changed circumstances for our families and that schools in New York City are providing powerful virtual instruction for those who have chosen to study. from afar, ”said Filson, the school district’s spokeswoman, in a statement. .
Superintendent Rosa Diaz said in Carteret, NJ, a 4,000-student school district in central New Jersey, about 20 to 30 students have been regularly logged in from the outside in the past few months.
But after a series of “bombs” – interrupted by strangers breaking into some online classrooms – the district began blocking access from IP addresses outside the US in mid-March, she said. . In addition to securing the network, they also want to encourage students to return to live instruction.
“We want everyone to know: We are open to business and we hope that these students will return, or at least be here locally,” she said.
Max Rodriguez, 16, a sophomore at the Frank J. Cicarell Institute in Elizabeth, traveled to Ecuador with his mother and sister just before Christmas to visit his grandfather, who had a heart attack. He met cousins for the first time and practiced his Spanish.
“A cousin, she’ll sit down with me,” he said. “We have almost all given each other lessons. I will teach her English. And she is teaching me Spanish. “
He said he was very grateful that he was still able to log into the classroom until he returned home at the end of February.
“The two months off school is really important,” he said. “Two months can be really bad.”
Juliana Kim contributed to the report and Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research.