“A Sense of Community”: Stuyvesant’s Return to Blended Learning
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With the reopening of New York City high schools, some students have decided to opt into Stuyvesant’s blended learning plan. However, returning to the school building is a far cry from a return to normalcy: blended learners attend their remote classes from a desk in the gym, cafeteria, or auditorium. Despite the compromised comfort of blended learning, students are provided with opportunities to socialize and interact with their classmates. While the Stuyvesant community has mixed opinions on this system, for many who have chosen to attend, the pros outweigh the cons.
Walking into the school building through the second floor bridge entrance, blended learners are greeted by staff who check their temperatures and health screenings. After swiping their IDs, students can go up the stairs to their respective pods. Between classes, students are able to speak to classmates and play games—an opportunity that isn’t available during remote learning. During school hours, Zoom classes resume as normal.
Although blended learners are seated at desks spaced six feet apart from one another, Stuyvesant students have still found ways to socialize with their classmates. Many students have participated in community-building activities, such as ping-pong, walks, and tours of the building. “On Tuesday, I went with Ms. Ingram and some other kids and got to meet a senior. Ms. Ingram told us about Stuy and we had candy, and it was just really nice,” freshman Zoe Grossman said. “In your free periods you can play ping-pong and go hang out with people,” she continued.
Additionally, many students have recognized the benefits of doing schoolwork from an academic setting. “I share a room with two siblings and it can get kind of crowded, so I like that I can go into blended and be around other people in a space that’s really quiet and a school environment,” freshman Amanda Cisse explained. Junior Alec Shafran agreed: “I’m a lot more focused when I’m in school, because I know that I don’t have my phone here or my parents walking around.”
However, blended students have also noted several downsides to in-person learning. Some students have had difficulty returning to their routines from pre-pandemic school, and many mentioned that waking up earlier to commute to school on time has been a struggle. “I’ve been cutting it so close in terms of waking up when I’m at home. I fully wake up at 9:08 to get to a 9:10 class. It’s really bad. But that’s one of the biggest things. I also [struggle with my] commute, which I’ve kind of gotten used to not having in the mornings,” Shafran said.
Furthermore, blended learners have noted that being in a large room with other students learning remotely can be challenging when attempting to focus in class. “In the theater there’s not really any desks and we’re all really close together and it’s a little bit louder than it is in my room,” senior Maddy Andersen said. Other students shared similar struggles of feeling uncomfortable taking tests or participating in their classes when in the school building. “It does get a little bit uncomfortable to participate because you’re in one big room with really good acoustics, so every time you participate you either have to whisper or sound like you’re screaming at the top of your lungs,” Shafran said.
Overall, blended learning requires sacrifices for students to reap the benefits of it. But for Stuyvesant students who have decided to return to the school building, most have found the experience to be invaluable. “I didn’t realize how much I had lost until I went back in and experienced being in the school building with my peers again,” senior Jonathan Schneiderman said. Especially for seniors whose high school experience is coming to a close, Stuyvesant is not designed to be experienced from home. Thankfully, the reopening of blended learning is one step closer to normal.