Policies in Practice

Student’s opinions on Stuyvesant’s COVID policies, their effectiveness, and how they can be improved.

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In-person school has largely resumed with the same old schedule, from waking up at unseemly times, encountering subway delays, and running frantically up and down the stairs. However, there have also been several changes to our regularly scheduled programming in light of the pandemic, such as the daily health screenings, a restriction on eating in the hallways, table wiping in the cafeteria, and an updated homework policy.

One of the most noticeable changes was the implementation of a mandatory health screening that students must complete before coming into the building each morning. Some students don’t believe that the health screening is completely necessary and would prefer more relaxed restrictions. “The health screening is not necessary every day,” junior Hui Wang said, voicing his concern about the practice.

Junior Ziying Jian believes otherwise. “Having to fill out the health screening every morning and having students go through the questions, even if they might not be reading the questions closely––it forces them to make a conscious effort to evaluate their health,” Jian said. She noted that in pre-COVID times, students would regularly come to school sick, but the physical action of filling out the screening can make students more aware of their health status.

Plastered along the school’s walls is another COVID policy—signs that state “No eating in the hallways.” Both Jian and senior Rubaiyah Shahrin believe that the rule is a hindrance and should be reformed with the weather getting colder and fewer people going outside. Jian recounted a bad experience with this policy: “I was sitting alone on the seventh floor, and someone came up to me and demanded that I not eat even though there were no people around me [...] I feel like if you find a secluded place in the school and you feel comfortable eating there, you should be allowed to eat there.” Having the cafeteria be the only location in the building to eat poses a much larger risk, Jian pointed out.

Shahrin also tries to avoid crowds in the densely packed cafeteria. “I don’t go to the part of the cafeteria where it's super dense with students. I usually stay on the side by the entrance where there are not that many students eating at a table at a time,” she said.

Furthermore, the cafeteria guidelines, which require students to use wipes to clean their tables before and after eating, are rarely enforced. “I don’t really use the wipes that much, to be honest,” Wang admitted. Anonymous Senior A observed a similar occurrence. “Wiping down tables is effective but most students don't do it, from what I've seen,” they wrote in an e-mail interview. Even with the tools provided, students are not incentivized to use them. “It’s hard to force people to wipe down their eating areas, especially one that they are sharing with others,” Jian stated.

The COVID policies have also attempted to address the challenging transition from remote to in-person learning. The administration took student concerns regarding a chaotic return back to an in-person schedule and academics into account, creating a 30 minute homework policy for all classes, including Advanced Placement courses. Some students have noted a shift towards empathy in many teachers. “The best thing that most teachers have done is that they are much more understanding to students. Especially when we come in late due to commute troubles or when we have to compromise in certain classroom settings, they don’t ask questions because they understand that the pandemic has created setbacks for all of us,” Shahrin said. Shahrin also appreciates teacher efforts to emulate a pre-pandemic classroom environment. “[Teachers have] created a classroom setting that is very similar to the ones we had pre-pandemic. That includes basically everything we’ve done before the pandemic and making it a new pseudo-normal so that sense of normality can be really comforting to students,” she added.

However, the 30 minute homework policy has also stirred discontent among students who find that some teachers are not sticking to the rule. Jian and Senior A both feel that they have little power to confront teachers that don’t follow the policy. “A lot of work that I’ve been assigned has [taken] more than one hour to complete,” Jian said.

Senior A believes that the policy could be helpful if more strictly implemented. “The 30 minute policy rule maybe could be improved by having [teachers] submit homework assignments to administration as well,” A suggested.

Students and faculty are faced with tremendous challenges at the outset of this in-person school year. Though the administration has put policies in place that aim to keep students healthy, physically and mentally, it is clear that there is still a lot to be done.