Summer program launches at THHS with a return to in-person teaching

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Though Townsend Harris High School was open for much of the 2020-2021 school year, over 90% of students opted to remain remote. This summer, the NYC Department of Education unveiled a new program that makes summer enrichment courses available to all students. At THHS, “Summer Rising” has attracted over 120 students to sign up to return to the building and join in-person instruction in a way that was not available this past year.

Whereas in previous years, summer programs for THHS students have been held at Francis Lewis High School, THHS’s Summer Rising program is offered at THHS itself. It began on July 12 and runs until mid-August. In early July, Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee emailed the student body with a menu of options for the program. This includes athletic opportunities, courses in STEM and Humanities subjects, enrichment activities and even mural painting.

“So we thought that we would get about 80 kids,” Ms. Fee said, “and right now we have about 128 that signed up, so we think we’re doing great. We also think that once people hear that there are Metrocards and lunch that we might get a few more. We’re expecting some great fun things to happen.”

Aside from enrichment courses, the program will also offer students introductions to courses they may take in the upcoming school year. Given the report card results from June of 2020, the administration had noticed that many students were struggling with classes such as Algebra II, Geometry, and Chemistry, according to Ms. Fee. Once THHS was granted funds for the program, administration made a plan to offer introductory classes to help transition students before they begin their official classes.

Although Summer Rising is offered to most schools, THHS adjusted this program to fit the needs of these students, allowing teachers to pick the programs they think would be most beneficial to their pupils.

For some, the program offers a chance to return to a normal school setting after over a year of remote learning. Rising Junior Kevin Chen said, “in this pandemic, everything was kind of boring and sluggish for me because I didn’t do anything, so being here is a great way to have new friends and see new faces.”

Students play volleyball at THHS while participating in “Summer Rising”

Others haven’t yet experienced what THHS is like in person, in spite of being Harrisites for the last year. Rising Sophomore Alejandro De La Torre said, “it feels like [the Summer Rising program] would be a great help to incoming 10th graders and the community is good. And it is nice to get a glimpse of what school is like to get accustomed to being in person.”

For others, the courses themselves offer enticing enrichment opportunities and academic experiences. Rising Sophomore Srabon Nath, a participant in the Java boot camp, signed up because “I thought studying over the summer would give me a good start in September,” he said. “It might be an interesting experience learning new things and meeting new people.”

Rising Freshman Tony Jia, part of the Computer Science Principles class, said that he signed up for Summer Rising because “computer science is a very interesting subject…and I’ll be happy to learn about it.” Tony Jia added that he was very interested in seeing the school building in person as well.

“There is a program called Computer Science for All (CS4All) that is citywide,” Ms. Fee said. “But I don’t know any other school who is doing Intro to Computer Science like we are with Mr. Connor, so that is unique.”

“It’s been a year since we’ve been in the building, and we’re just having fun,” said Math Teacher Timothy Connor.

The courses are taught by THHS teachers, who also haven’t taught fully in-person like this since March 2020. Though many teachers taught in the building, their courses were offered through Zoom while in the classroom rather than through live instruction.

Dean and Physical Education Teacher Robin Figelman said, “Coming back was very strange and it felt a lot different. However, it is a good way to get students reacclimated to life and socialization.”

In the same vein, Athletic Director Lauren Caiaccia said she views the summer program as “a great opportunity for students, particularly incoming students to come see the school as they haven’t had an opportunity to come into the building as of yet.”

“Additionally, for those who have been in the building, it’s been almost a year and a half or so, so I think it’s time that everyone gets used to a little bit of flow but not a lot of pressure,” she said.

Summer Rising is a free program for all NYC students. Meals are provided and health precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing are being utilized to help keep everyone safe. 

Schools throughout the city offer a mixture of academic and enrichment opportunities. Other schools are offering courses like Outdoor Gardening, Chinese Culture Workshops, a Summer Olympics simulation and more. With schools scheduled to fully reopen in the fall, without remote learning offered as an option, the program aims to get students reintegrated into the in-person experience that so many have missed since last year. 

Depending on the program, students meet at THHS one to three times throughout the week from July 12 to August 13.

Ms. Fee said, “Doing something to get all [Harrisites] energized and back in person is a really great opportunity for our students.”