June 14, 2021
Densley has experience working in public schools where students often come from lower-income households. She said the schools supplied not only education but also basic human needs, such as food, to their students.
“Two of the schools I taught at were [in] more impoverished areas,” she said. “Many of those students were getting free lunch every day and free breakfast too and free busing to and from school.”
Densley said economic differences in education impact students’ learning and opportunities.
“We do have a lot of inequity in the way that we provide for education, not just within the U.S. but globally,” she said. “I could teach at a public school that was down the street from the charter school I taught at, and the difference in the quality of education between those two schools was astronomical.”
Alternatively, Principal Devan Ganeshananthan said it was the norm for all New York City-area private schools to provide financial aid, including St. Ann’s School, where he worked as a math teacher and coached track and field.
“It’s an industry standard that the school is going to give some level of financial aid,” he said. “That is not, from my knowledge, that much of an industry standard in international independent schools.”
Zein Blanks (’22) said the majority of families at the school have a high-income background, which constitutes a lack of awareness for students. She said ASL combats the socioeconomic bubble by increasing students’ experience and awareness of what lies outside of the bubble.
“To be the well-rounded person that ASL tries to create and harness in relation to the world, part of that is exposure to different socioeconomic people from different socioeconomic classes,” Blanks said.
Ganeshananthan said the presence of financial aid is recognized among the community and sometimes runs the risk of increasing tension or a divide between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Furthermore, Ganeshananthan said in order to provide anonymity for students on financial aid, families’ circumstances are kept completely confidential.
“Once students are admitted, no one actually knows outside of the admissions office who is actually on financial aid or whatnot, so students are treated, you know, independently of that,” he said. “The expectation is that every single student is going to be supported, regardless of their ability to pay.”
Moving forward, Densley said she wants the school community to further develop its acceptance of families from various socioeconomic classes.
“I would like to see us continue to grow in respect to creating a more inclusive environment and continuing to open ourselves up for more diversity in socioeconomic status,” she said.