We Need to Go Back

We must return to normal in September with full in-person learning.

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We come to Stuyvesant for the academics but stay for the people: the best friends, the club buddies, and the passing acquaintances. We get to know our unique teachers and the unlikely companions who sit next to us in class. But after over a year of online learning, we have replaced the everyday interaction and fun present in normal school with tedious Zoom lectures. Thankfully, we have hope; the vaccine is already available to every New Yorker over 16 and soon to everyone. But the current situation is untenable. We must return to normal in September with full in-person learning.

In-person interaction provided us solace from the stresses of Stuyvesant. Spending time with friends, waving to acquaintances in the hallway, and even simply being in the building with other students carried us through the countless assignments, lengthy commutes, caffeine-fueled days, and late nights. With remote learning, the social interaction that used to pull students out of bed every morning is gone, and our motivation to attend classes has diminished. Even with cameras on, staring at a sea of heads comes nowhere near an in-person class.

This struggle has had an especially adverse effect on current freshmen, who have not met any of their peers or become acclimated to their school environment. Most freshmen have not stepped foot into the building, let alone made new friends. This problem is not exclusive to them. Current sophomores have only spent a little over one semester in the building. Even juniors and seniors feel their friendships fraying, and without a full return, rising seniors may miss out on the traditions of the final year of high school.

We understand that the administration and the Student Union have been sincere in their efforts to mimic in-person socialization through community Flipgrids, speed-friending events, and movie nights. But the reality is that students are feeling lonelier than ever, speaking only to the same small group of friends at best, and at worst nobody. Relationships cannot be fostered over Zoom, which is why it is imperative to go back to school in September. In-person, a student can make a friend in a class or through a club and see that person multiple times a week, but now, making friends is a task that requires constant initiative.

The issue is not the plethora of connective opportunities but rather the lack of connection in them. While these opportunities are well-intentioned, they are facilitated and controlled. The spontaneity of human interaction used to be taken for granted, but we need it now more than ever.

Additionally, Stuyvesant students, contrary to their diligent and studious reputations, can find themselves distracted in class. While daydreaming and occasional boredom are part of the student experience, remote learning has magnified this problem to the utmost degree. A scratched desk or bent paperclip is not as distracting as the black hole of a computer or phone next to us. Though we may hide it, many students have often drifted away from class because it is easier than ever to do so. Students do so not because of moral failing but for lack of accountability. This online school environment actively works against our studies, our attention, and our very dry eyes.

We have dreams for an in-person school year—one in the pre-pandemic era. We love and miss the idea of school with live instruction, sports, and extracurriculars, rather than another year of blended learning. To receive at least a decent high school experience, we need to be in school to socialize and express ourselves through in-person clubs. From the freshmen who do not know the perils of the Hudson stairwell to the rising seniors who know them all too well, we all need to be immersed in the Stuyvesant environment. The school needs to figure out a plan for fully in-person school to truly create bonds. As social creatures, we need to be in school five days a week.

By September, a return to school is possible and expert-recommended. The city will have had an entire summer to recover, and millions more New Yorkers will be fully vaccinated. As New Yorkers, we are used to taking risks and navigating perils. What is certain from in-person schooling are the gains —a chance to see our friends, to see our teachers, and to see our school. Come September, we need to be shuffling once again across the Tribeca Bridge, heading toward school. We will carry our megapounder backpacks. We will carry our iced coffees and Red Bulls. We will carry our violins and lacrosse sticks and bags of soggy swim clothes. We will––and we must––carry on.