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Reddit: NY High School Student’s “Beyond Control” COVID School Experience

January 7, 2022

The following post appeared on Reddit on Wednesday, January 05, 2022, with brief update added on Thursday, January 06, 2022. Although the piece is written by a high school student in New York City and portrays attending school in NYC in the throes of omicron COVID, I can relate to much about this student’s experiences and perspective even as I am teaching in-person in a Louisiana high school. (We don’t have the testing, but we do have the herding of classes into larger spaces such as the gym, auditorium, and cafeteria.)

(Aside: Even as I am composing this post, NYC mayor, Eric Adams, is on CNN boasting of the abundance of testing available in NYC schools and that “we’ve proved that” having students in school is working.)

I Am a New York City Public High School Student. The Situation is Beyond Control.

I’d like to preface this by stating that remote learning was absolutely detrimental to the mental health of myself, my friends, and my peers at school. Despite this, the present conditions within schools necessitates a temporary return to remote learning; if not because of public health, then because of learning loss.

A story of my day:

– I arrived at school and promptly went to Study Hall. I knew that some of my teachers would be absent because they had announced it on Google Classroom earlier in the day. At our school there is a board in front of the auditorium with the list of teachers and seating sections for students within study hall: today there were 14 absent teachers 1st period. There are 11 seatable sections within the auditorium … THREE CLASSES sat on the stage. Study hall has become a super spreader event — I’ll get to this in a moment.

– Second period I had another absent teacher. More of the same from 1st period. It was around this time that 25% of kids, including myself, realized that there were no rules being enforced outside of attendance at the start of the period, and that cutting class was ridiculously easy. We left — there was functionally no learning occurring within study hall, and health conditions were safer outside of the auditorium. It was well beyond max capacity.

– Third period I had a normal class period. Hooray! First thing the teacher did was pass out COVID tests because we had all been close contacts to a COVID-positive student in our class. 4 more teachers would pass out COVID tests throughout the day, which were to be taken at home. The school started running low on tests, and rules had to be refined to ration.

– “To be taken at home.” Ya … students don’t listen. 90% of the bathrooms were full of students swabbing their noses and taking their tests. I had one kid ask me — with his mask down, by the way — whether a “faint line was positive,” proceeding to show me his positive COVID test. I told him to go the nurse. One student tested positive IN THE AUDITORIUM, and a few students started screaming and ran away from him. There was now a lack of available seats given there was a COVID-positive student within the middle of the auditorium. They’re now planning on having teachers give up their free periods to act as substitute teachers because the auditorium is simply not safe enough.

– Classes that I did attend were quiet and empty. Students are staying home because of risk of COVID without testing positive (as they should) and some of my classes had 10+ students absent. Nearly every class has listed myself and others are close contacts.

– I should note that in study hall and with subs we literally learn nothing. I spent about 3 hours sitting around today doing nothing.

– I tested positive for COVID on December the 14th. At the time there were a total of 6 cases. By the end of break this number was up to 36. By January the 3rd (when we returned from break) the numbers were up to 100 (as listed on the school Google Sheet). Today there are 226. This is around 10% of my school. As of Monday, only 30 of whom were reported to the DOE … which just seems like negligence to me.

– 90% of the conversations spoken by students concern COVID. It has completely taken over any function of daily school life.

– One teacher flat out left his class 5 mins into the lesson and didn’t return because he was developing symptoms and didn’t believe it safe to spread to his class.

I’ve been adamantly opposed to remote learning for a while, and thought that it was overall an unmitigated disaster for the learning and mental health of students. At the present time, however, schools cannot teach and function well enough in person. We must go remote.

**I should note that I wrote this on Wednesday.

Edit: I’ve removed the name of my school as it made me uncomfortable sharing such information, but I’ll say that it’s a specialized high school. This is occurring everywhere. I’ll probably reveal it on comments but I’d prefer for it not be in the body of the post.

Edit 2: NOTE — NOT TRYING TO BE DAMAGING TO THE SCHOOL FACULTY AND TEACHER STAFF. THEY ARE DOING THEIR ABSOLUTE BEST WITH THE CARDS THEY’VE BEEN DELT, AND ALL STUDENTS ARE APPRECIATIVE. ITS DIFFICULT FOR EVERYONE AND TEACHERS AND STAFF ARE REMAINING SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE.

Update: 40% of teachers are out today. They can’t even take attendance because it’s impossible. You can sit anywhere in study hall one chair apart.

My hope is that I can be present each day so that my students are not herded into the cafeteria. Finding a sub is now a luxury.

The custodian on our hall was out for the whole week. To assist the remaining custodians, who are pressed with trying to maintain our facilities despite missing custodial staff, this week I have been cleaning my own classroom as well as the girls bathroom on my hall. And since students are supposed to spread out more during lunch, the trash on campus is now also spread to areas where students weren’t allowed to eat pre-pandemic, including to the area behind my classroom. So, I have taken to cleaning that trash, as well. Bringing the situation to the attention of administrators makes no sense since they, too, are streched so thin in trying to keep the school operating amid incredible faculty, staff and student absences.

Wild times.

______________________________________________________

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