We Asked 8 New York City Teenagers: How do you feel about returning to school?

Mche Lee, Unsplash

It feels like the ones in power do not really care about us. New York City has the nation’s largest school system with approximately 1.1 million students. If we all go back, it is likely that interaction with our peers and strangers could cause many of us to contract the virus; cases are bound to rise.

I took a survey from the Department of Education regarding going back to school. My parents of course want me to do online school for the whole semester. I do too. But the survey made it sound like it was up to the school to decide. I am extremely worried about this. I do not know if my school can make a good decision. I live with my grandmother and I am worried that I might pass the virus on to her.

Richi Barua, 17, City College Academy of the Arts

I have anemia, which makes me more susceptible to getting the virus. For me, returning in person represents crowded hallways, interaction, and ignorant kids who will take off their masks.

My whole family has underlying sickness, especially my grandmother. Older people are at higher risk for COVID-19, which is why we should be considerate of the lives of our family and elders.

Remote learning has its perks. You’re able to have a more flexible schedule and workspace. For the kids who struggle to get good grades, the grading policy is on their side.

Still, I do miss school and the idea of going back excites me, so I can see my friends and different faces.

Santhana Pierre, 15, Pathways College Preparatory School

I miss sitting in a classroom, using a desk, switching classrooms each period, gym, the lunchroom, all of that. I feel like we should have a mixture of remote learning and regular school learning. Not only will schools be less crowded and social distancing more possible, it will also give us the human interaction that we haven’t had for a while. I feel like if they did this, I’d be more comfortable going to school.

Jennifer Nghe, 16, Sunset Park High School

While I wish I could go back to school to see my friends, classmates, and teachers, I don’t think going back to school in September is a good idea. I suffer from asthma, which makes me high-risk.

I and so many other New York City students have to take public transportation, which is the complete opposite of social distancing, especially during rush hour.

Reopening schools also puts students’ families at risk. If some adults don’t even want to wear a mask, it is unrealistic to expect all elementary school students to wear them, some of whom might not fully understand the importance of it. We’ve seen cases spike in states like Florida just from beaches reopening. Imagine what could happen if the 1,126,501 students in the NYC school system returned.

Meagan Zullo, 16, The Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women

I feel happy that we have the option to go back to school, even if it’s only two days a week, because being cooped up inside is really starting to get to me.

Remote learning is harder for me because I have a short attention span, so sitting on a Zoom call trying to retain information is a challenge. I struggled with completing assignments on time, focusing, and having a good sleep schedule.

Konner Stephen, 15, Scholars Academy

Watch Konner speak about returning to school.

As a city, we have made great progress: from the epicenter of the outbreak to now achieving some of the lowest number of cases. Still, I don’t think I’m ready to return to school in-person. With cases still rising across the country, the problem is not over yet.

I’m lucky to have the option of staying at home. However, for some students, school might be their escape from a stressful home life. For them, in person learning should be an option. We should be able to provide adequate resources for these students, because COVID is not an excuse for neglecting the needs of those who need extra support.

Helen Chen, 16, High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies

I want to see my friends, learn in a school environment, and enjoy my last year of high school. I’m afraid that like the class of 2020, I won’t get to have the traditional senior experience. Although part of me wants to go back to school, if it means that I’ll get sick and possibly get my family sick, then it’s not worth it. I’m torn because I miss my old life, but I need to be safe.

Eyhdi Osorio, 18, New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science IV

Watch Eyhdi speak about returning to school.

Despite the city’s claims about enforcing social and physical distancing in schools, I think this would be an impossible task. Imagine all the things that everyone touches all day: the classroom door handles, the stairway banisters, the locks on the bathroom doors, the shared classroom computers, and desks.

I’ve read articles about how unhygienic central heating and cooling systems are. They can recirculate used air without filtering it. This means that if someone breathes the virus into the air, even just a few droplets, it can infect them. When I read this, all I could think about was how cold my school building is from September until November. They keep the windows closed and blast the air conditioner when the weather outside is above 65 degrees.

When I hear about plans to return to school in the fall, I worry for the safety of my classmates, my teachers and myself. Ultimately, though, my biggest worry is about picking up the virus at school and bringing it home to my family. Reopening schools amidst a pandemic is a dangerous and reckless thing to do.

Rose Bell-McKinley, 15, The Beacon School

Watch Rose speak about returning to school.

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