Editorial: With major cuts to classes likely, it is time to opt-in for remote learning

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As New York City public schools prepare to start classes in the coming weeks, the global pandemic threatens not just safety but the quality of instruction and range of courses available to students. The Classic recently reported that because of the nature of the DOE agreement surrounding the hybrid learning plan, students will have two teachers per in-person classone for remote instruction and another for in-person learning. As a result of this increased demand for teachers, many in the school community have worried that there will be fewer course offerings, with significant cuts to electives. According to three sources with knowledge of the meeting, school administration informed teachers earlier today that 10-20 classes per major subject area stand to be cut, including the vast majority of electives, unless every student opts for remote learning. The principal has also requested 36 non-THHS teachers from the DOE just to be able to run our complete program using the blended model, should students not choose to go remote. This seems neither desirable nor plausible. Simply put, Townsend Harris and its students can’t afford to lose these valuable classes. The Student Union has called for all Harrisites who are able to do so to opt for fully remote learning, and The Classic strongly agrees. With these devastating cuts to instruction looming, it is the responsibility of every THHS student who can do so to opt out of hybrid learning and opt-in to fully remote instruction.

As of our last reporting, almost sixty percent of students have opted for in-person learning in order to salvage what normalcy they can of this school year. However, it is equally important for students to consider their educational priorities. In the absence of certain classes such as elective math and science AP courses, which are likely to be cut due to the lack of teachers, the college applications of seniors – particularly those applying to business, engineering, and science programs – will be severely harmed.

The negative impact of the loss of courses will not stop with seniors, however. The inability of juniors to take classes like pre-calculus will prohibit them from being able to take an AP calculus course during their senior year, another significant detriment to their college applications. Sophomores will also be hit hard, as the loss of courses like AP Research and Science Research will take away their ability to earn the prestigious AP Capstone diploma or participate in competitions like National History Day and NYCSEF. Furthermore, freshmen will also be impacted because they will lose classes that would be available. Freshmen also face losses in future years when upperclassmen fill up classes they didn’t receive this school year that are normally reserved for underclassmen.

The school community is now faced with yet another unprecedented problem at the outset of an unprecedented school year. While students may yearn for the normalcy of years past, it is their obligation to think about their own futures and those of their classmates. By opting for fully remote learning, they are doing a service both to themselves and to all Harrisites.

If the school cannot get the majority of its students to opt into remote learning, it may face a catastrophic loss that remains with students throughout their high school and college careers.

Despite all this, we must emphasize one crucial thing: there must be understanding and compassion. Bullying people into choosing remote learning harms the spirit of unity that is behind this school wide choice. We understand that there are students who require access to the school building for various reasons that might be personal, economic, or technological.

These students and their families must know that they can still choose in-person learning. For the rest of us, it is our responsibility as students to make sure that these students can be in the building without judgment. In fact, they may be able to be in the building for more than two days at a time if enough people choose to go remote. If only those who need the building use the building, and the rest opt in to be remote, we can make sure everyone gets the courses they need and more.The administration must make sure that parents can share their needs privately and receive the accommodations they need. If this happens, the school year will be able to proceed without the loss of classes and by prioritizing in-person learning to those who need it most.

Thus, it is our firm belief that any THHS student who is able to do so should opt for fully remote instruction for the upcoming academic year, in order to protect the academic futures of themselves and their fellow students.