By Kendall Lucchesi, Staff Writer
The pandemic has posed many questions for our future as a whole. Life itself has been forced to be reimagined over the past seven months. Within the category of life falls our education, our curriculum, our schooling. New Paltz High School, unlike other schools across Ulster, Dutchess, and Orange County, has yet to form a reliable plan for returning students.
“It’s hypothetical at the high school right now,” stated Mrs. Lara Tozzi, an English literature teacher at the high school, who’s been teaching for the past 27 years.
As students approach the beginning of the second quarter, they are left wondering if they’ll have the ability to see the inside of a classroom before closing the first semester. Mrs. Tozzi proceeds to explain her understanding of why our return to the halls of New Paltz High School has been halted.
“Having a schedule that accommodates students and teachers who are staying full remote,” Mrs. Tozzi explained. “That doesn’t exist.”
Scheduling is where the difficulties lie. Many students and teachers have decided it may not be in their best interest, health-wise, to return to school if the opportunity presents itself in these upcoming months. Those students and teachers required permission from the school to be “full-remote” and sought out accommodations based on their needs.
The school now recognizes the struggle to produce a schedule that serves the needs of everyone. How to create this schedule–one that works for everyone–is the crucial question posed to the superintendent and her colleagues.
Many neighboring school districts, however, have begun their transition back into in-person-learning.
“It’s weird,” said Madison Albanese, a junior at Goshen Central High School. “It’s hard to socialize with the people you used to talk to every day.”
Maddy, along with her friends Grace Gardener and Sofia Fini, both juniors, attend their classes every Monday and Thursday with the rest of the students whose last names fall between A-K. On Tuesday and Friday, they learn via Zoom calls while their peers with last names L-Z attend school normally. On Wednesday, they participate in asynchronous work while the school is sanitized. When it comes to scheduling, Maddy, Grace, nor Sofia had to cut any electives or clubs from their normal schedules during the transition to a hybrid plan.
“I don’t like it,” Grace Gardener tells me while talking about her experience with hybrid learning, “but it’s better than nothing.”
This is a difficult time for everyone, and a lot of things are still up in the air. A feasible plan must be communicated before students can envision themselves sitting in a classroom or seeing their friends.
“I feel like I have to teach myself more than I would normally have to due to limited class time with my teachers,” explains EJ Blaisdell, a junior at New Paltz High School. “ The content this year is also a lot more intense compared to previous years.”
EJ is a well-rounded student with a rigorous schedule, both inside, and outside of school. During the day, she spends her time juggling the workload of her four Advanced Placement classes, while at night, she works as a waitress for a local restaurant. On top of all that, she’s also the junior class president at the high school.
“I spend at least six hours on schoolwork,” EJ tells me. “It’s just super draining.”
Not only are students struggling with the uncertainty of potential hybrid learning, but parents also are feeling the stress.
“It hasn’t affected me significantly,” Stephanie Blaisdell explains while discussing her daughter EJ’s remote education. “The primary impact has really just been a concern that she continues to engage in high quality education in an environment that is inherently less stimulating.”
Parents often share this same viewpoint. Some parents in the district are working full time jobs and aren’t available to watch their children’s every move to ensure their participation throughout the day. Even the parents who do have the privilege of staying home still do not fully understand the workings of remote learning.
“There will always be a risk,” Mrs. Tozzi states regarding re-entering the building, “we just need a solid plan.”
Featured Photo: elenab, ViewSonic