The Experiences of Students Who Chose the Blended Learning Model at Bronx Science

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Mia Zaslow

The halls of Bronx Science are quiet as few students have chosen to attend school in-person for the blended learning model offered by the NYC Department of Education.

Every Thursday, starting on Thursday, October 1st and continuing through Thursday, November 12th, 2020, Mia Zaslow ’23 stepped foot into Bronx Science wearing a mask. She showed her daily health screening to the school aide, who then took her temperature. Then, she headed to the library to start her classes. The library’s atmosphere has transformed — instead of quiet chattering, seat-chasing, and frantic studying for the test next period during the days before the Coronavirus pandemic altered our school year, now masked students sit spread out across the library to maintain social distancing guidelines. Silence permeates the room. Because of a rise in the weekly COVID-19 case rate in New York City, all New York City public schools temporarily closed until such time as they can safely reopen again, staring on Thursday, November 19th, 2020.  Currently, all NYC public school students are doing remote learning from home

For the Bronx Science students who chose the blended learning model, what has it been like to attend Bronx Science during the past few months, when the weekly COVID-19 case rate in NYC was low enough that they could safely attend school in person? 

Starting on Thursday, October 1st, 2020, those students who had chosen the blended learning model entered Bronx Science for the first time in more than six months in order to start their blended learning programs. Mia Zaslow is part of this group of students who chose the blended learning model, where they come to school once a week on staggered days, as they are grouped into cohorts. During the day, wandering the halls during free periods is kept to a minimum to maintain social distancing restrictions; trips to the bathroom are the only exception. Lunch is distributed in the library, with students spaced far apart in the interests of safety.

Social distance stickers decorate the hallway floors, to remind students and faculty about the importance of maintaining at least six feet of distance between themselves and other individuals. Because the majority of Bronx Science students chose the fully remote model for this academic year, for in-person students and faculty, social distancing has been easy to maintain for both blended students and faculty alike. The only lines that students wait in are at the entrance to the school in the mornings, and because these lines are outside in the courtyard, rigid social distancing and safety measures are in place to ensure that COVID-19 transmission does not occur. 

The reasons that some Bronx Science students chose the blended learning model are varied. Mia Zaslow chose the option because it allows her to safely interact with other students, an important concern for many. Her parents, who work from home, drive her to school, because she does not feel comfortable taking the subway during the Coronavirus pandemic. In the library, she discusses work with peers with whom she shares classes. She is confident that Bronx Science is taking the proper COVID-19 safety precautions. “I think that as long as people keep their masks on in the building, the school is doing a good job with safety and with social distancing,” Zaslow said. 

On October 13th, 2020, the Bronx Science community was notified about a COVID-19 case, as required by NYC Department of Education guidelines, but the student was a fully remote student, who had not been in the school building. This incident did not deter Mia Zaslow from going back to school. “The whole reason that the NYC DOE takes so many precautions is so that if one person gets sick with COVID-19, it will hopefully not have an impact upon anyone else,” Zaslow said.

Blended learning does not solely consist of in-person classes; given the wide variety of classes on offer at Bronx Science, some classes can only be offered as remote classes, given budgeting concerns and constraints with scheduling. Sometimes, Zaslow attends remote classes while at Bronx Science. Though the school atmosphere is quieter than in the days before pre-COVID-19 when over 3,000 students attended Bronx Science in person, on a daily basis, during her designated day of the week, Zaslow attends many in-person classes that provide real interaction, a valuable plus. In her English class, Zaslow discusses the literature under discussion with a group of her fellow students, all masked and all socially distanced in the classroom. 

Megan El’Zayyat ’23, a student who chose the fully remote learning model, takes Advanced Placement Biology, a “traditionally lab-heavy class.” With no interactive in-person lessons due to the Coronavirus pandemic and safety restrictions necessarily in place, it is “more difficult to understand concepts.” One perk of remote learning however, is the extra time spent with family. “I used to never have time to eat breakfast or even talk to my parents in the mornings before school, so I appreciate that I now have the time to do this on the days that I’m doing remote learning from home,” El’Zayyat said.

Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, students across the world have had to adapt to new forms of receiving their education. Blended learning is a noble attempt to give some semblance of what normal classes at Bronx Science are like, but both the remote learning and blended learning models can never fully replace the magic that happens with in-person teaching and in-person group discussions, along with the social interactions that Bronx Science students enjoy. It will be a while before the library regains its lively ambiance, where unmasked students huddle around a desk and chatter excitedly about a test again. But with two promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates on the way towards FDA approval, we may hope that the hallways of Bronx Science will resound with student chatter some time next year. 

For the Bronx Science students who chose the blended learning model, what has it been like to attend Bronx Science during the past few months, when the weekly COVID-19 case rate in NYC was low enough that they could safely attend school in person? 

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