Do not open Hunter HS for class January 5, 2018
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An Open Letter to Hunter Administrators:
Dear Dr. Fisher and Ms. Siegmann,
I am emailing to ask that you please reconsider the decision to have school be in session tomorrow, Friday, January 5. I believe – and many of my classmates agree – that it is simply unfair to cancel a scheduled school closure with such short notice, and in fact, with very little notice.
Firstly, not until nearly the end of regular school-day hours was an email sent out alerting Hunter faculty and students of this change. The only way I am aware of the change is that I happen to have checked my MyHunter today to double-check a homework assignment. Even in logging onto the Hunter website today, one could easily miss the alert regarding tomorrow.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no reason why the vast majority of Hunter students would be checking the website at all or looking out for an email from Hunter today, for two reasons. First, tomorrow’s school closure has been clearly marked on the school calendar since this past summer, and in my entire time at Hunter there has never been so drastic a scheduling change. Second, yesterday’s email announcing a snow-day for today (1/4) advised "Faculty and volunteer students” to “watch… for status updates” regarding the entrance exam, giving no indication that any students not volunteering at the exam would have any need to keep an eye out for scheduling changes. Thus, the average Hunter student is very likely to have no idea that this decision has been made, and consequently will be marked absent by no fault of their own.
In addition to the reasons I have stated thus far, I would also point out that reopening school tomorrow, yet cancelling the Hunter entrance exam, poses a danger and significant difficulty for many members of the student body and does not make logical sense. If weather and transportation conditions are such that holding the exam is not possible, how is it reasonable to expect the entire Hunter faculty and student body to attend school? The winter storm has brought heavy snow and cold winds, making the commute to Hunter unsafe for many. It has also caused significant delays for New York City’s public transportation networks, issues that cannot be expected to have been resolved by tomorrow morning. Personally, I take an above-ground train to school as part of an already-lengthy commute. I anticipate that if, it is not rerouted, my train will at the very least be very delayed, and I know that some of my classmates have commutes far longer than my own and/or the snow will be a major obstacle in their reaching a subway station. I have heard from multiple classmates that either their home or their subway station is snowed in.
Aside from the logistical problems I have explained with Hunter faculty and students commuting to school, this decision is neither logical nor just. Ms. Siegmann’s email (sent only now, in the afternoon, quite late for such a significant change) states that the exam has been cancelled “Out of concern for the safety of students taking the test and our faculty, staff and volunteers administering the exam.” If coming to Hunter for the test is so hazardous that it poses a noteworthy risk to students’ and teachers’ safety, what reason could there be to require Hunter high school students to come to school? Is our safety not an important factor? Moreover, if the goal of this decision is to prevent volunteers and faculty from coming to school tomorrow out of concern for their safety, it is important to acknowledge that reopening Hunter tomorrow will force them to come anyway, undermining the goal of protecting the safety of the Hunter community. The forecasted high temperature for tomorrow is 15 °F, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures during school hours are expected to be between 10° and 13°, with wind chills between -5° and -10°. With such temperatures and wind chills, frostbite can occur within 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. The commutes of many students and faculty in the school are in excess of an hour, placing them at significant risk for harm.
Discounting all physical dangers associated with requiring students and faculty to attend school tomorrow, such a sudden, last-minute scheduling change is unfair. January 5 has been listed as a day off since the 2017-18 school calendar was issued, and, as such, many Hunter families have made plans for Friday. I am well aware that, as per the Umbrella, “The school will not honor requests for excused absences for vacations, family trips, or to lengthen weekends or other holiday breaks.” However, it is not reasonable for the Hunter administration to force students to decide between an unexcused absence, and cancelling plans they have had for months.
All things considered, the decision to open Hunter for class tomorrow, while postponing the entrance exam, is one that, to be frank, does not make any sense. Students and faculty will now be placed in harm’s way, assuming they happen to be checking for an alert regarding tomorrow. I send this email on behalf of the many fellow juniors who have also expressed the concerns outlined above. We urge you to please close school tomorrow.
Elliot Wolf and Fellow Members of the HCHS Class of 2019
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