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Guided by the concept of “Pandemic as Portal” (Souto-Manning, 2021), this work utilizes ethnographic methods of inquiry and analysis to understand home–school relationships between Lisa, an African American preschool leader, and families at an early childhood center in the U.S. Midwest. Analysis of data from before and during the pandemic revealed continued themes of extended relationships between center leadership and families beyond preschool years, themes based in care over time, and political clarity of leadership. This political clarity drew on Lisa’s understanding of systemic racism and the school system that former students and older siblings would be entering. This paper also considers a disparity in the support and resources the center received, as it often had to rely on local problem-solving or established means and methods of communication to continue connecting with and supporting families throughout the pandemic, rather than turning to state or federal programs for support. Ultimately, the paper concludes that transformative and humanizing practices that developed before the pandemic helped guide the center through that time. The story of home-school relationships at this early childhood center provides examples of the potential to reimagine family engagement, avoiding a return to the “normalcy” of pre-pandemic home–school relationships across the U.S., which have historically been based in unequal power relationships that ignore systemic racism.
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