Stuyvesant Reduces Number of Blended Cohorts

Starting on October 19, Stuyvesant reduced the number of blended cohorts from four to two.

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Starting on October 19, Stuyvesant reduced the number of blended cohorts from four to two. Initially, students were placed into four blended cohorts that took turns going to school for two days every eight days. Positive responses from these students and more students opting for fully remote learning prompted the administration to convert the four cohorts into two, thus granting blended learners the opportunity to physically go into school more often.

After Cohort B finished up in-person learning on October 19, Cohorts C and D returned to the building together on October 20, thus collapsing the number of cohorts. To ensure a smoother transition into blended learning with the reduced groups, the administration has modified the model so that each cohort attends in-person schooling for four consecutive days, and returns to remote learning for the following four. “Once we had experience with all four groups (A,B,C,D), we felt we could combine into two groups, while still maintaining all safety measures. This allows the students who are coming in the blended model, who want to be in the building for a variety of reasons, to be in more often,” Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Casey Pedrick said in an e-mail interview.

Students in blended learning attend their classes—conducted through Zoom and Google Meet—from designated areas throughout the building. Originally, freshmen were assigned to the sixth floor gym, while sophomores were placed in the fifth floor cafeteria, juniors in the third floor gym, and seniors in the Murray Kahn theater. “There are fewer than 100 students in on any given day, so very few changes needed to be made. We took the sixth floor gym off as a location, so students are in the cafeteria, the third floor gym, or the theater,” Pedrick said. Students previously in the sixth floor gym were moved to the other locations. The administration is also considering removing the theater from the list of designated areas depending on how things proceed in the following weeks.

The administration does anticipate a few challenges associated with this new blended model. “Factors including the change to colder temperatures, the increase/decrease in positivity rates across NYC, [and] the constant adjustments that need to be considered when students and/or staff might be impacted or exposed to COVID are all considerations we have to anticipate,” Principal Seung Yu said in an e-mail interview. “We’ll need to review thoroughly and make sure families are aware of the implications of having one opportunity in November to opt-in for blended this school year.”

In planning the new model, the administration also had to consider student reactions. “We thought the frequency of more days would help build routine and possibly help build community for students who chose blended. The challenge is that not every student feels comfortable coming into the building more frequently at this point, and they are still evaluating whether blended is productive for them,” he said.

Sophomore Maya Brosnick, however, plans to continue attending blended learning and feels that Stuyvesant is safe enough to carry out the new plan. “Stuyvesant is a large school, and there are three different rooms. There is a lot of space between students, and I think [two cohorts are] safe,” she said. Even with fewer rooms for students, Brosnick still thinks students will be able to effectively maintain social distancing.

Senior Michelle Tsfasman enters the school building by the Hudson River, which leads directly to her current designated spot in Lecture Hall A. She has found that Stuyvesant's original structure was sparse enough to allow for more students, thus having two cohorts would not be problematic. “There were like two people in my lecture hall, maybe three maximum. It was three maximum and then it was me, but I was the only one on Friday,” she said.

Some students have noted that the earlier plan of four student cohorts wasn’t very successful in terms of social interaction. “They had a community-building exercise early on, but it wasn’t much social interaction, so going into school more would be better for that,” Brosnick said.

With two cohorts, however, there will be more opportunity for students to safely interact with each other and not through a screen. “The whole point of actually going to school is for like a little bit of socializing with people rather than being there by yourself, as long as it’s safe and [socially] distanced and everyone [is] wearing their mask,” Tsfasman said.

In order to combat the lack of student interaction, the administration is looking into creating opportunities where students can engage with more of the building and one another. “Grouping students and finding ways for authentic interactions are difficult, but we’re working on it. Right now, our team is setting up brief tours for our freshmen who are in person to see the building. We’re finding open periods where we can have small student groups interact, move around, and meet one another,” Yu said.

The administration is optimistic about shifting into blended learning with two cohorts while maintaining a safe environment and is excited to offer blended students access to the building more frequently. “We absolutely love having the students here. My favorite part of the day is the time I spend at the bridge, welcoming students to the building, offering them PPE [personal protective equipment] and breakfast, and sharing a quick connection,” Pedrick said.