Bronx Science, How Does It Feel to Be Back?

After a year and a half of remote learning, Bronx Science students and faculty have returned back to the building. How does it feel to be back?


Sirajum Munira

On a typical Monday after school, students at The Bronx High School of Science spend time with their friends, playing games, and hanging out.

In a matter of months, we will be living through our second year of the Coronavirus pandemic. Most people can still recall the vivid memories of the world shutting down in March of 2020, with everyone being abruptly told to stay home until further notice. While this did come as a huge shock, most believed the virus wasn’t a huge concern and would be soon brought under control.

However, as the Coronavirus pandemic continues, over a year and a half later, a common question continues to be, will this pandemic ever end? Will our take on normal ever be the same again?

The pandemic served as a period of change for everyone worldwide. Many lost loved ones to the COVID-19 while others were on the brink of financial ruin, losing their jobs and relying on unemployment benefits and stimulus checks from the federal government in order to get by.

“The lowest point for my family and I was the passing of my mother on April 9th, 2020. She battled lung cancer for thirteen years and the end was quite rapid and unexpected. I’m still devastated by this loss,” said Coach Dahlem, one of the Physical Education teachers at Bronx Science.

While some experiences ended in loss, some experiences were positive, with the aid of nurses, doctors, and miracles.

My grandma was hospitalized around six months into the pandemic, which was rough. The doctors told us to say goodbye to her and everything. But, somehow, she survived and we are all very grateful for that,” said Oliver Whelan ’24. 

In the midst of all this heartbreak and loss, there was one aspect of the Coronavirus pandemic that remained the same for most of the Bronx Science community: remote learning. The experience of learning in school can never be replaced by technology, no matter how hard one tries. This sentiment is echoed by students and faculty alike.

“Technology is cool, but remote learning is no substitute for the magic and spontaneity of being in a classroom together,” according to Ms. Berger, an English teacher at Bronx Science. 

Others felt that remote learning had more benefits than disadvantages. Oceana Zhu ’24 said, “Overall, my remote learning experience was really good. I think that remote learning forced me to learn time management skills, and in a way, it was a nice stepping stone between my relatively relaxed middle school to Bronx Science, which is far more rigorous.”

During the 2020-2021 academic year, most students chose to remain fully remote during the pandemic, with a smaller number of students choosing to attend school in-person a few days a week. However, many teachers remained on campus in order to teach the students who chose in-person learning.

“I was in the building last year, and I’m one of the few hundred people that knows what an empty Bronx Science looks like. Until you’ve witnessed the enormity of our building, dark and quiet, you won’t truly appreciate what it’s like when 3,200 or so people are present,” said Dahlem.

Ms. Berger said, “Last year, I taught in person at Bronx Science — but to fully remote students. It was so lonely and bleak that I literally placed stuffed animals in the desks and propped books in front of them. Occasionally, I changed their seating and pretended they were having Socratic seminars.” 

By now things have changed, the number of COVID-19 cases remains relatively low citywide, and we now have vaccines as a means of combatting the virus. The world is beginning to open back up.

When asked about how she feels to be back at Bronx Science, Asuka Koda ’23 said, “Simply put, it doesn’t seem real yet.” 

“I’m a senior and it definitely feels great to be back in the building again. This year was an intense transition for me because I take public transportation from southwest Queens every day to Bronx Science,” said Victoria Diaz ’22. For many students, the Bronx Science commute is time consuming, something that was not an issue during the period of remote learning from home. 

Along with returning students coming back to Bronx Science, ninth grade students revealed how it feels to be at Bronx Science for the first time! Alissa Cyriac ’25 said, “I’m really excited about being in-person at Bronx Science. As a ninth grader, it’s my first time coming into the building, and it’s great to be able to have the full high-school experience. I enjoy being able to build connections with my teachers as well as with other students. I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed in person school, until I came back.” Sumaiya Jessi ’25 said, “Bronx Science is just very welcoming; the faculty and students are very kind and helpful and make the whole transition from middle school to high school very smooth.” 

Overall, students are enjoying returning to Bronx Science or entering the building for the first time. Most students are able to be more social and interact with friends and teachers, something that they were deprived of during remote learning.

Many precautions are in place in New York City public schools in order to keep the Coronavirus in check. The DOE website lists details on the numerous precautionary steps taken in order to ensure that reopening schools remains safe and effective. Some of these steps include health screenings, face-coverings, social-distancing, ventilation, and disinfectant equipment. 

Every single day, everyone must arrive at school with a face-covering and a copy of their health screenings. In order to be granted entry into the school, health screenings must be shown to a school official. Moreover, masks are mandated for everyone present within the school. If you don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you. Additionally, the importance of ventilation was highlighted in the health and safety of schools and its students. Two air purifiers have been added to each classroom in order to increase air circulation, along with windows and doors remaining open. Hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes are also accessible in every room on campus.

As shown above, hand sanitizer as well as other disinfectant materials are widely encouraged to be used. They are available in every classroom. (Sirajum Munira)

A “new normal” is one of the many ways to describe the state of the way the world is now compared to pre-pandemic life. Zhu gives her own interpretation of this phrase: “Even though it’s hard to let go of what our lives were like before COVID-19, it’s also critical that we acknowledge that we will never return to life as the way it was. Instead, everyone must play their role in helping to eradicate as much of COVID-19 as we can so that we can continue our lives with some semblance of normalcy, even if this normal is different from what we expected it to be.”

In the future, the pre-pandemic status quo isn’t guaranteed, but with these changing times we could create a new version of normalcy, one fit for the era.

“I’m a senior and it definitely feels great to be back in the building again. This year was an intense transition for me because I take public transportation from southwest Queens every day to Bronx Science,” said Victoria Diaz ’22.