Jolie Futterman, Grade 9, Staff Writer
The New York City public school system, the largest in America, made the bold decision to partially reopen schools this fall. By November 18, however, the three percent COVID-19 positivity rate forced all public schools to shut down. In January of this year, teachers became eligible to receive the vaccine, and in March the Department of Education announced that schools would reopen. The question remains: how do teachers at the High School of American Studies feel about coming back to school?
Ms. Elizabeth Rice, a global history teacher at HSAS, feels that the return to school is necessary to bring more social interaction into the lives of students. “Clearly, school usually provides a lot more than just academic content and it's been hard to do that remotely,” said Ms. Rice. “We all feel isolated and lonely, and the fun aspects of school are missing.”
Ms. Rice also expressed her belief that students are not learning as much in online classes. “It's been hard to translate some of my more interactive activities online, some of which I've had to drop,” she said.
Ms. Rice was given her first dose of the vaccine and is receiving her second one soon, which she said made her feel comfortable returning to the classroom. She also expressed her excitement for normal school life in the future, saying, “We probably have to wait until fall for things to really return to normal—classes taught in person and everyone back in school. I really can't wait for that.”
Other teachers, like Mr. Michael Holmes, feel that online school may be a good option. “I don't have many concerns about online school if it involves live meetings and assignments that allow students to have the ability to discuss with teachers the assigned work,” he said.
However, Mr. Holmes feels that technological problems are a substantial challenge. “There is obviously the problem of tech issues and possible poor WiFi,” he said. “Those issues point to an infrastructure problem that online schools didn't create; it falls back on infrastructure issues in towns and cities which highlight that WiFi should be a subsided utility for its citizens.”
In terms of returning to the classroom, Mr. Holmes shared his concerns about contact tracing at HSAS. “I am not sure how you do accurate contact tracing when your numbers exceed the capacity of tracers to reasonably follow the path of where the virus may have spread,” Mr. Holmes explained.
For HSAS Spanish teacher Ms. Rosanny Genao, Zoom fatigue is one main concern about online learning. “We have all experienced extreme Zoom fatigue, mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion after sitting for hours on end in front of a computer screen,” she said. “It’s hard to create a sense of a true learning community—something we do exceptionally well when we teach in person at HSAS.”
Because of this, Ms. Genao feels it is very important for students to return to school. “I think it is imperative we return to some kind of in-person schooling for the sake of our students’ emotional and mental well-being more than anything,” Ms. Genao explained.
Ms. Genao feels comfortable returning to the classroom given her recent vaccination and the implementation of safety protocols at HSAS. “As long as our student population continues to observe this protocol, I know I will be happy and comfortable being back in our beloved toolshed.”