At the onset of the pandemic, distance learning provided a unique opportunity for working students: Without having to spend time getting to campus, and with the ability to log in to Zoom from anywhere, time on the job could extend to virtually any point of the day. And once the economic recession set in, that opportunity often became a necessity, especially for immigrant students. Now, as schools reopen and resume pre-pandemic schedules, districts are facing obstacles in bringing these learners back to class—and some are trying new strategies in the process.

“Some students are saying ‘Well if I can't put food on the table for my family, why is education the top priority for me?’” says Rose Francois, senior director of program at Enroot, a nonprofit supporting immigrant youth in Massachusetts. “I think right now some schools are thinking we are going to go right back to normal but I don’t actually think students are.”

Immigrant students working jobs while going to school isn’t a new phenomenon. But with the pandemic, students are taking on jobs in greater numbers or going full-time in jobs they already had, says Avary Carhill-Poza, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Boston who has been studying these students throughout the pandemic.

“This year, with no cameras on, students have told us that they are attending class with their cameras off while they clean houses for money, while they fix cars for money, while they take care of their brothers and sisters,” she says.

Part of the explanation has to do with how these communities experienced the pandemic. The economic fallout hit Black and brown families more heavily and immigrants disproportionately suffered from service industry shutdowns and layoffs. Due to language barriers and less access to legal resources, they were also more vulnerable to evictions—even in cities that instituted moratoriums. Carhill-Poza noted that while some students she follows used to spend the money they earned on themselves, the majority are now contributing to rent or family support.

Read the full article about how schools can support immigrants students by Noble Ingram at EdSurge.