Trips, events, and after school activities canceled as coronavirus cases grow

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With the growing number of coronavirus cases in New York, this week saw a number of normal school activities thrown into disarray due to increasing health concerns.

Several organizations have cancelled or postponed large events that many THHS students attend. Amongst these events are the NYC FIRST Hudson Valley Regional robotics competition, Prideworks, the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (MIST), the New York State Science Olympiad Tournament, and all PSAL activities, including practices and competitions. The DOE has also cancelled all international trips. As of 3 PM on Friday, all school trips were cancelled. 

Prior to the cancellation of trips, two back-to-back trips showed how quickly perceptions of safety changed throughout the past week.

On Wednesday, students from a group organized by Assistant Principal Veronica York went to see Wicked on Broadway. The students, with English teacher Kevin Schwab, Assistant Principal Georgia Brandeis, and Ms. York as chaperones, traveled to the Gershwin theater by subway. Prior to leaving THHS at noon, parents received phone calls to confirm that they were willing to send their child on the trip. Attendance officer Yvette Reyes said, “The Wicked trip was successful. All parents said yes except for one child.”

The following day, thirty seven of English teacher Ryan Dunbar’s sophomores were planning to attend Thursday’s matinee performance of The Phantom of the Opera. Those in attendance would leave THHS at 10:30 AM, take a yellow school bus to the Majestic Theatre, walk to Urbanspace, a food hall where students would buy themselves lunch, and walk back to the theater for the show, which also served as the dismissal point. 

Parents were also contacted on Wednesday to ensure that no one wished to opt their child out of the trip to The Phantom of the Opera. By the end of the day, the trip was on and set to leave as planned. However, students received an email stating otherwise at approximately 10:15 AM on Thursday morning, fifteen minutes before they were supposed to leave for the city. The email, written by Mr. Dunbar, stated that the trip was rescheduled “out of an abundance of caution,” and that students would be “attending the show in May, instead.” 

By the afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all of Broadway would shut down by 5 PM.

In regards to the trip’s cancellation and the announcement that Broadway would go dark later that day, Mr. Dunbar stated, “I was kind of uncertain about cancelling the trip because I didn’t want to disappoint students that really wanted to go see The Phantom of the Opera, but then when I saw later in the day that Broadway shut down as of 5 PM that day, I felt like it was probably the right decision because it would have been a little scary and a little eerie to have been in a show while it was being announced that Broadway was shutting down.”

The last-minute notice was a stress factor for some. Sophomore Tamanna Rahman was affected and had a physics test later in the day. She stated, “I stress studied during classes. I kind of expected [the cancellation]. My friend who was supposed to go with me had Mr. Dunbar first band and told me that he made it seem like [the trip] was going to get cancelled.”

Others held the previous day’s trip to Wicked as a basis of comparison. Sophomore Nuranjalie Outar commented, “I’m just amazed at how much can change in a day because just yesterday some students went to go see Wicked and we were scheduled to go the day after that but got cancelled.”

Principal Brian Condon explained the process that went behind cancelling the trip to The Phantom of the Opera, saying, “The first thing I look at is if we are using public transportation or if we are providing private transportation like a yellow bus…I also look at the venue that they’re going to. Is there going to be a large amount of people there? Where is that venue located?”

English teacher Katie Yan had planned several trips for her sophomore classes. As of Friday, Monday’s trip to the Holocaust Museum on Long Island had been cancelled. Ms. Yan said, “I think it is a case-by-case basis. Where are they going? Who are they interacting with? The other trip I had planned in April was to the Museum of the Moving Image. We would take public transportation. It’s in Astoria. I would not want to go. Something that’s more private? Absolutely.” 

The museum’s website said that they “implemented new protocols for disinfecting [their] facility throughout the day.”

As for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the rumors and potential scares regarding it in a school setting, Mr. Condon stated, “There’s no standard as to what proper reaction is…There are things that are in your control. I had this conversation with parents and staff members the other day. If you don’t feel well, stay home. If someone in your house doesn’t feel well, stay home. If you have a brother or sister, and that brother or sister is sick, then you should stay home. There’s no reason to come to school with the possibility of passing on something that you have, whether it’s COVID-19 or the common cold…So that’s when you make what you may think as a sacrifice to stay home one day or two days as opposed to going to school because you want a perfect attendance award or you think you’re going to fall behind. I would rather you stay home, think of the community, get the work, and do the work quietly.”

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