As New York City Begins Reopening, Students Wonder Whether They Will Return to School in the Fall
Vaughan Roberts, Grade 12, Journalism Student
The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives in ways few imagined at the beginning of 2020. Many unknowns will need to be answered before schools can confidently reopen in September.
In recent days, many areas of New York State, including New York City, have begun to ease up on lockdowns and look towards reopening. This begs the question of whether or not public schools will reopen as normal in September. Kira Bertie [‘20] said that she expects a reopening by September due to economic necessity: “As businesses lose money they will be forced to resume operations, putting pressure on schools to reopen for the benefit of their workers’ children.”
However, other students are skeptical about schools reopening in the fall. Even if schools resume some live instruction, many feel as though they will have to take special measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. “Even if [schools reopen], I’m sure people will still wear masks and gloves at school to secure themselves, which is far from normal,” said Caitlin Gomez [‘20].
This is in line with what the U.S. might do to follow China’s lead, where schools for older students have slowly begun reopening, incorporating social distancing, small class sizes, and other restrictions.
In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers union has started a petition
addressed to the federal government demanding that certain requirements be met before schools can reopen. These demands include widespread testing, temperature checks upon entering schools, rigorous cleaning protocols, and protective gear, as well as tracing for those who have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive.
These requirements are at the center of what most expect when a return to school does occur. Adrian Kuka [‘20] said that he doesn’t think schools will be open come September, but if they do open, there will be “enforced social distancing, masks, and hand sanitizer stations everywhere.” Kuka added that HSAS would struggle to follow these regulations because it has such a small building.
Mr. Thoman, an HSAS history teacher, agreed with Kuka that certain regulations will be enforced if schools reopen in the fall. While he said that he does believe that students will be going back in September, he anticipated that “the DOE will put in place a special alternate day schedule that means high school students come in two days a week in order to keep class sizes down and social distancing possible.”
These guidelines could be especially important in a confined space like HSAS, and could possibly foster a quicker return to at least partial in-person schooling. Scott Seigel [‘20] holds that when schools do open, they “will remain open for as long as they can, obviously under different guidelines.” If the city sees another spike in the fall, Siegel said that he could imagine schools closing again.
Even if schools open in September, further outbreaks could force subsequent closures. A coronavirus vaccine won’t be ready by mid-to-late 2021 at the earliest. This means that a second wave of COVID-19 may hit New York City in the coming months. It remains to be seen how our leaders will handle a return back to normal, yet students and staff at HSAS remain hopeful that school may resume with appropriate restrictions.