Preserve the high standard of education and protect health and safety at SHS
Preserve the high standard of education and protect health and safety at SHS
As the announcement of cross-cohort “Zooming-in” looms for high school students, the Scarsdale community would like to make it abundantly clear that the sentiments of the minority, a select group of parents and teachers, do not reflect the perspectives of the larger body of students, teachers, and parents, nor do they reflect the proper course of action. The proposal being considered by the district’s Restart Committee is unnecessary, counterproductive, and destructive, both from an educational standpoint and concerning the health and safety of students, teachers, and other staff.
Firstly, it is important to recognize whether the current structure of learning is one that needs to be altered at this time before considering how it should be altered. I purposefully inquired to one of my teachers today about his/her perception of the situation, asking if he/she anticipated finishing the course’s curriculum at our current pace. Not only did the teacher state that he/she anticipated fully teaching the course and adequately preparing students for any future application of the course’s content, including the AP Exam, but the teacher implied that implementing the changes in question would not accelerate the pace of learning. It is important to note that the teacher made clear he/she could only speak for the particular course, and not for all teachers. Referencing several points regarding the low attentiveness of virtual students and the ineffectiveness of mixed virtual learning, the teacher made his/her opinion on the matter clear (I have decided to keep the identity of the teacher private, only because I have not asked for permission to disclose his/her identity). In considering the three possible approaches of returning to school this fall, all-online, hybrid, and in-person, the committee and the board of education did consider cross-cohort “Zooming-in,” but decided against the implementation of the practice for all of the reasons I will proceed to detail below. No facts or substantive concerns have changed in the results of the cost-benefit analysis that is being performed in this case—only the addition of a select few voices, all of whom may very well have the best interests of teachers and children in mind. Yet, as one considers the reality that the overwhelming majority of both teachers and students are opposed to the change in plans, it becomes clear that many proponents of the proposal likely do not fully understand what is best for students and teachers—certainly not as well as students and teachers themselves.
The prospect of altering the current schedule is one that would adulterate the quality of a Scarsdale High School education. The beauty of the hybrid model in its current state is the ability for teachers to tailor the structure of classes based on the mode of instruction. For most classes, the single in-person period allotted each week provides teachers with the opportunity to conduct activities that would not be possible over Zoom. With the introduction of online participants to such classes, teachers are left with two choices: (1) to disregard the online students’ inability to participate in certain activities while at home, which would make the experience of little educational value to such students, thus raising the question of why the virtual students are present to begin with; or (2) to degrade the quality of the experience to create one that would be possible to replicate online, thus raising the question of why the students are present in the classroom for an event that would be feasible over Zoom (to which the answer should be clear amidst the pandemic we continue to face). All-virtual students can testify to the difficulties correlated with teachers making the first of the two choices, as students who currently “Zoom-into” classes are often not able to participate in the same manner as others, and do not receive ample support from teachers. Being all-virtual is a difficult choice some students and their families have made due to varied reasons, aware of the educational drawbacks; however, the implementation of the practice on a larger scale would not be a choice. It would be forced upon students. The situation very much becomes a battle between two evils, both of which offer students a lesser educational experience and render the possible changes counterproductive. An acknowledgment of the educational ineffectiveness of possible changes to the hybrid model is important, yet the health and safety of students should be foremost concerns, and any revision that places these items in jeopardy cannot be implemented, under any circumstances.
Cross-cohort “Zooming-in” presents a threat to the well-being of all students by augmenting their levels of stress and by increasing their exposure to larger groups, presenting a COVID-19 safety risk. Many students are already overwhelmed by the experience of attending in-person classes, taking part in synchronous Zoom meetings, completing asynchronous assignments, and working through hours of homework. The mornings in which students do not have synchronous classes provide a much-needed break from school and an opportunity to work on assignments or study for upcoming assessments. As a side note, the eye strain and overall negative health effects yielded from the experience of over-using electronic devices is already detrimental, and supplementing this with more Zoom meetings would be a grueling prospect for students and teachers alike. Turning to another health risk, a concerning, under-the-radar aspect of the situation is the increase in exposure to the others that would occur as a result of cross-cohort “Zooming-in.” The decision to send a child to school is an already-difficult one for many families, especially as the rate of COVID-19 cases in the surrounding area continues to steadily increase, and the changes in question would force students to spend more time in the building, a dangerous proposition. Under the current schedule, students in any all-virtual classes take their Zooms from the comfort and safety of their homes on opposite-cohort days because the morning schedule for teachers with all-virtual accommodations is reversed. Should the proposal in question be implemented, students would be forced to attend the all-virtual classes currently reserved for the other cohort from school, in addition to on opposite-cohort days. This presents a grave risk for students, requiring many to spend more time in the building, without adding any of the value of in-person learning. Although I cannot speak to how all students will be affected by this situation, I refer to my schedule to demonstrate the issue. On Tuesdays, I have first and second period free, as my Chemistry teacher is all-online, and our class meets virtually for either a double period or single period on Mondays, depending on the week. This allows me to attend only periods three, four, and five on Tuesdays, totaling two hours and fifteen minutes of in-person exposure. Should the schedule change occur, I would be required to come in for first-period class on many Tuesdays and take the Zoom from inside the building, exposing myself for four hours and five minutes, almost double my prior period of exposure. This change is deeply concerning to me, personally, and I imagine others will echo a similar level of apprehensiveness.
If you are among the group of students, faculty, or parents who do echo my concerns, both regarding the educational drawbacks of cross-cohort “Zooming-in” and the health-related concerns, I would encourage you to sign this petition. I firmly believe that I am in the majority and that I am unmistakably correct in my view of the matter. Should you have any further concerns, I would encourage you to write them when prompted to provide a “reason for signing.”
To the Restart Committee, I plead you to reconsider your course of action. Please recognize that each individual that signs this petition is pleading to you as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.