Wrangling students on the other side of a computer screen may be tough, but now that face-to-face contact can’t happen, it’s critical help for students who are just learning English. And at the same time, families who are trying to get a footing in a new country during a pandemic have been thrown into even further confusion.

“We need to acknowledge that this is a hard time for everyone, but especially for new immigrants. You know, for the minority population, it is triple hard, not even double triple hard on them,” said Geralde Gabeau, executive director of Immigrant Family Services Institute (IFSI).

IFSI partners with Boston Public Schools, where nearly a third of students are English language learners, and works mostly with families that speak only Haitian Creole. With everyone isolated at home by COVID-19, Gabeau said some students had never been in a U.S. classroom and needed remote support to learn enough English just to be ready to start school. Sarah Greenwood K-8 School in Dorchester has partnered in a pilot program with IFSI this summer and is continuing this fall.

Tamara Odenat, who immigrated from Haiti, has two boys and a girl who have formed bonds with IFSI teachers. Odenat said she and her three children live in a single room together in Mattapan. The IFSI program has offered an outlet during the pandemic, she said.

“The program helps decrease the stress. It is still there, but it helps a lot,” Odenat said.

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