Jackson Parker, Grade 9, Staff Writer
The High School of American Studies has temporarily lost one of its most prized programs: its classes at Lehman College.
The economic downturn from the Coronavirus has hurt the New York City education system, including the City University of New York. As a result, CUNY has been forced to cut off funding for Lehman College programs at HSAS. Lehman College needs to prioritize its own students, leaving HSAS in a difficult situation given the program’s importance to the school.
Alessandro Weiss, the principal of HSAS, revealed some of the reasoning behind the pausing of the programs and his objections to some proposals for reopening them. For example, it was proposed that the PTA could attempt to sponsor the entire program, but he does not believe this solution is fair to the school nor viable for it. “I don’t think it's right for the PTA to have to pay the full cost of the college program when this was part of a partnership with CUNY,” he said.
Even if the school were to find funding, Weiss believes that providing college courses online is not worth the effort. “If we were going to look for funding for this program we decided we would rather look for funding and spend it on real live college classes than on virtual college classes which are probably not as good,” he said. Upperclassmen who took Lehman College classes virtually last year echoed Weiss’s statement, saying that online learning made college courses difficult to digest.
All of this is having a painfully real impact on HSAS students, who have looked forward to taking college classes since freshman year. College classes are especially important for HSAS because it is too small to support a variety of quality programs on its own, Weiss noted.
HSAS senior Spencer Lorin took college classes before the pandemic and found them to be extremely valuable. “You get to learn something in much more detail and [it’s] more interesting,” he said. He added that in terms of college applications, “some colleges don’t just like it, they expect to see it.”
Equally worse off were the juniors, who were expecting to start their Lehman courses this year but lost the opportunity. “I was deeply disappointed,” said Bernard Condon, a junior at HSAS. “College classes are a hallmark of HSAS. They are what sets HSAS apart. Students can take strange and unusual classes that they otherwise wouldn't have access to.” This feeling is shared by many in light of these funding cuts.
Despite this, the future is looking bright, and Mr. Weiss and the rest of the administration are working hard to make sure it stays that way. Mr. Weiss is communicating with CUNY, the DOE, and local politicians to find funding for fall courses, and is also looking to ensure that every senior who has not taken a college course with Lehman College has the opportunity to take one this semester.
In the meantime, both Lorin and Condon affirmed that they believed HSAS would be worth it even without its beloved classes at Lehman. “It was one of several appeals of HSAS,” said Condon. “The school is a tight-knit community with warmhearted and endearing teachers and staff. This was a massive loss, but HSAS is still HSAS.”