NEW YORK, NY– On Monday May 24, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City schools can return to in-person learning in the fall of 2021 in response to relaxed COVID guidelines and increasing vaccination rates in the city.
The mayor expects that schools will be able to accommodate all students while respecting guidelines put forth by the CDC, one concerning rule being social distancing. NYC is home to over 1 million students, and the 3 feet of social distance may become difficult to obey in the highest-populated city in the United States. In response to these concerns, the mayor noted that he expects the CDC to alter social distancing guidelines between now and September.
The mayor expects there to be a remote option, and schools will switch to remote learning on snow days to continue teaching.
Many colleges and universities have already announced a “normal” return to school in the fall, and it is likely that other cities will follow in de Blasio’s footsteps.
In our highly polarized political climate, controversial issues seem to highlight the news every day. It seems as though both sides of the political debate are so far apart that they both are unable and unwilling to hear the other perspective. Students grades 5-12 are continuously trying to find their own political views through consuming media and exploring existing opinions.
How should schools, the places designed for learning, help in that process while also providing different and unbiased perspectives to allow for students to discover what they believe? According to Pew Research Center, “A decade ago, the public was less ideologically consistent than it is today. In 2004, only about one-in-ten Americans were uniformly liberal or conservative across most values. Today, the share [of those] who are ideologically consistent has doubled. 21% express either consistently liberal or conservative opinions across a range of issues – the size and scope of government, the environment, foreign policy, and many others.” So, how does this disparity affect schools and students?
The way to arrive at truth is to listen with an open mind and to state opinions with the intention to help students understand their point of view, not to instigate disputes. Students and teachers must practice freedom of speech in classrooms, maintaining a neutral platform that questions all perspectives and allows for objective discussions.
With college on the seniors’ minds, everyone is wondering if their SAT scores are high enough, if their GPA is up to par, and whether or not their essay says what they intend it to. However, one thing that students tend to put in the back of their mind is the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes they have taken and how they will have performed in those classes.
At Champlain Valley Union High School there are 10 AP classes offered: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, U.S. Government and Politics, Studio Art, Music Theory, Human Geography, and English. All of these classes are yearlong and the demand for enrollment is high. For classes such as Human Geography and Government, it takes as many as three blocks to fill the demand, and even then there are many students stuck on the waiting list. Although it is great that so many students are interested in these classes, it is quite upsetting for many to hear that CVU cannot meet their demands– all students should have access to these critical college-level classes.
The big question is why are students so intent on taking these classes? Ben Wetzell, a CVU junior taking two APs, explained it perfectly. “When I went and toured at Tufts [University], they said that you should definitely be taking AP classes! For them, it is an indicator of your work ethic.” Bay Foley-Cox, a senior who has taken a total of five APs, elaborated on this idea, “In a world where attending college in incredibly important, students in high school should gain some exposure to what it is like to take a college course. I think AP classes encompass a lot of the values in terms of education that we treasure at CVU. Also, every single admissions session I have attended has said that they are looking for a difficult class load and a good performance in those classes.” Wetzell and Foley-Cox have captured the very reason APs exist: to give students the opportunity to experience college level work before attending college. This is something that colleges love to see as it gives them a sense of how students deal with average high school courses as well more challenges ones.
VIRGINIA–On Monday, May 5th, 2017 new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the removal of the regulation of school lunch standards emitted by the former first lady, declaring at a Virginia school that the administration would “Make School Meals Great Again.”
The previous regulations placed on school lunches by Michelle Obama, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, put regulations on the amount of sugar, dairy, and white flower in school lunches causing a lot of controversy in schools nationwide. The regulations made kids not want to eat the cafeteria food, which lead to a drop in the income of school cafeterias.
Mr. Perdue said, “”I applaud former First Lady Michelle Obama for addressing those obesity problems in the past,” But, “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program.”
The new regulation lift will not completely disturb Michelle’s efforts, just slow them down. The USDA will now let states grant exemptions regarding whole grain standards for the 2017-2018 school year if they’re having trouble meeting the requirements, and the agency said it will “take all necessary regulatory actions to implement a long-term solution.”
CVUHS– Mark Pogact is one of the famed CVU math teachers, arguably the best according to some students, except for Peter Booth. Last year Pogact played a huge part in the the Best Practice teaching program CVU has been implementing. Best Practices teaching, according to the Teacher Development Group of 2013 is as follows, “strategies and plans for implementing teaching practices that align with research regarding how students learn mathematics, that produce increased and equitable mathematical understanding and achievement by all students, and that foster a culture of rigorous learning in which all students see themselves as capable mathematicians who can achieve.” Simply put, they help students to represent the connection and importance of each problem which, according to research, makes the learning more memorable and valuable to students. Now that part of the program has ended, questions are rising about how to proceed.
For the past three years CVUHS has been in a contract with a company to help teachers implement Best Practices. The way it works is one teacher and one of their classes are subject to the entire math department coming in and watching said teacher teach a lesson that a Best Practices instructor helped that teacher to desing to design. The teachers watching then watch the class proceed, without talking, helping or interacting with the students. This happens four times a year, about once each quarter. Mark Pogact was this teacher for the 2015/16 school year with his R2 Geometry class. Unfortunately, in the 2016/17 school year CVUHS decided not to renew the contract. While the exact reasoning for not renewing the contract is unknown at this time, it can be assumed that the money to fund it may have been lacking.
Many people believe that teachers are robots. It is easy to forget that teachers have lives outside of school. For most students, school hours are the only time they interact with their professors. Upon initial inspection, an educator who is focused on their work may seem unilateral, with teaching being their only interesting quality. But if you look deeper, past the superficial layers, you will find that each teacher is unique.
Amanda Terwilliger(Ms. T) is a perfect demonstration of this concept. Ms. T co-teaches the Holocaust and Human Behavior Class at CVU, a study into the inner workings of the human condition. In class she is passionate, recounting the horrors of the Holocaust and pushing her students to understand how such a terrible thing could have happened. She guides students through the catastrophe, creating emotion and pressing them to search for a deeper level of understanding. And though this class is an integral part of Ms. T’s persona, there is so much more lying below the surface.
Teachers continue to try and ease anxiety within schools.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as, “An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”, but a high school student might label it as “homework”.
There’s no doubt that high school can give students anxiety, whether the class is advanced placement or just a typical elective. According to Stan Williams, college applications create another level of stress for graduating students. “That press for self achievement is keeping people from doing things that really make them happy and that’s leading to a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression.” Williams explains that colleges are realizing that the additional pressure from the college process creates an unhealthy environment for high school students.