08 Sep NYC schools reopening: A sneak peek inside St. Peter’s Boys High School
Special from Staten Island Advance / SILive.com
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Students at St. Peter’s Boys High School will return to school with smaller class sizes, spaced desks, temperature checks — and they won’t be able to use their lockers — as part of a slew of precautions the New Brighton school has put in place when it reopens Wednesday amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Schools across New York State were required to submit their reopening plan by the end of July, outlining specific protocols to ensure the health and safety of students and staff during what is expected to be one of the most unusual school years in recent history.
The Advance/SILive.com visited St. Peter’s — with face coverings and a temperature check — to get a look at how it’s preparing for students and staff when they return for the first day of school on Wednesday.
John Fodera, president of the school, explained that St. Peter’s will look different for its returning sophomores, juniors and seniors, while incoming freshmen will get to know their new school in an unusual situation.
The president said that students can’t wait to come back to campus — even though they will only be seeing half their friends during in-person days. He said it will be an adjustment — especially for the seniors, who will only being able to interact with half of their 2021 graduating class.
While returning to school is important for academic reasons, social interaction is also just as necessary for students, Fodera explained.
“Nine out of 10 [students] can’t wait to get back here,” he said. “You’re locked into your household like that, you’re not interacting — and I know the kids lost so much last year from March to June…”
This means that students who chose the hybrid learning model will be attending school three days in-person and three days remotely for each six-day block schedule. Families also had the option of full-time remote learning — which Fodera said includes less than 40 students as of last week.
On remote learning days, students will still be learning and interacting with the same teachers via Zoom and other online learning tools.
“On remote, we’re using all practices of Zoom, remote learning, interaction with teachers. They’re always on a visual with teachers, as well,” Fodera said.
On campus, yellow dots are spray-painted on the ground leading to the main school building to encourage social distancing. Signs are posted on the door of every building indicating face masks are required.
Lines separate the school hallways to keep students on opposite sides, with more social distancing markers on the hallway floors.
There will be four different entrances for students when they arrive to school in the morning. Upon arrival, students will need to get their temperature checked, Fodera said.
A temperature above 100.4 degrees will result in a student going to the isolation room before getting picked up to go home. Students can only return with a doctor’s note that demonstrates a “clean bill of health,” Fodera said.
That also means students won’t be able to arrive to school early in the morning to get a head start on work. Since students must now be supervised and get their temperature checked, they must wait outside for the regular school day to begin before entering the building.
Fodera said he has concerns for the students who get dropped off early in the morning before the school day, as they will have to wait outside during all types of weather for school to open.
Class sizes that previously averaged 30 to 34 students will now have classrooms filled with just 12 to 18 students to adhere to social distancing protocols, with at least six feet apart between desks. And students will need to wear a face covering throughout the entire school day, Fodera added.
“We’ve managed to get between 12 to 18 desks in every room keeping the six-foot protocol for every class,” he said.
Students will need to carry all of their notebooks and textbooks throughout the entire school day, as lockers won’t be used this year to reduce crowding in hallways.
While lunch service will still be offered, the school’s cafeterias no longer have the typical lunch tables. The tables have been replaced with classroom desks — also spaced six feet apart. The largest cafeteria in the school, Fodera said, will be able to hold up to 50 students.
And students won’t be stuck in the same classroom every day, Fodera said. To manage student movement through the school, stairwells are designated as up or down only, and hallways will be monitored by school staff.
In addition, it will take more time to move to a different classroom to maintain proper social distancing, Fodera added.
“We can’t stay in the same room,” Fodera said, explaining that students are in different electives, making it difficult to keep the same group of students in one classroom. “We’ll have a teacher monitoring every hallway. If you’re coming in a classroom, stay to the right. We have up and down stairwells so that helps a bit. There’s a lot of little intricacies. We’ve [staff] said it’s going to be a learning process ourselves.”
Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the school and in classrooms, and cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be conducted daily.
Since the school doesn’t have air conditioning in every classroom, doors and windows will all be open to ensure proper air ventilation. Students will be able to keep water bottles with them throughout the school day, as water fountains were required to be turned off.
Dismissal will be staggered — with different times for each floor so that students don’t all walk out of the building at the same time.
Fodera added that only three sports will be able to return thus far — soccer, cross country and swimming.