by Maria Ann Roglieri
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today in a news conference that all New York schools and colleges will remain closed through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. School plans for the summer and fall are still in play. “This is the best course of action to keep students, educators and staff safe,” remarked the governor. Local administrators, teachers, and students alike are disappointed but understand this decision.
Sleepy Hollow resident Dr. Heather Hewitt, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at SUNY-New Paltz, thinks it is the right decision for the SUNY schools, whose students come from all over New York State, with many from New York City. To bring them back to campus, in her mind, would be a mistake. The majority of professors and administrators at her school had already anticipated that they would not be returning to campus this semester, she explained, and had planned for the rest of their spring teaching to be delivered via distance learning. The professors, she relates, are doing their best with online learning but are finding teaching difficult because students are dealing with the logistics and psychological effects of quarantining in close quarters, as well as with family members getting sick. Many of her students are essential workers and cannot engage in their coursework at the moment. “We are trying to offer a range of ways for students to engage with the material we are teaching but at the same time we don’t want to create added stress for them. We are offering a pass/fail option to all students.”
For seniors in Sleepy Hollow High School, the school closure also means no final senior activities such as prom and graduation. Said senior Grace Morgan, “It makes me sad that I had my last day of sitting in class as a high school student and I was not at all aware of it. Although Sleepy Hollow’s fantastic faculty has been brainstorming other ways of honoring seniors, holding prom, and having a graduation, it is just not the same.” Adds classmate Tess Kaplan, “It makes me super-sad that I won’t be able to have the rest of my senior year. I guess I kept trying to be a bit optimistic that I would be able to see all of my teachers and classmates again, so finding out that there was no possibility hurt. It’s just overall shocking and kind of hard to wrap my head around the fact that the school year is really over. It’s like we didn’t get closure. I look forward to the day that I can see everyone again, even if we are not actually in school!”
For teachers in Sleepy Hollow High School, the school closure means they will miss their students for even longer: Mr. Jason Choi, Chemistry teacher and Chairperson of Science Dept., comments, “I am disappointed that we will not be returning to school this year. The teachers empathize with the students, especially the seniors, who will be missing out on some high school milestones. Both the teachers and the students miss school greatly. However, we understand the importance of being careful and not endangering our students, teachers, and the community.
“Especially in times of crises,” he continued, “We should gather as much data and information to guide our decisions and err on the side of caution. Although the school community may be separated and apart, we are still meeting with our students regularly to ensure that they do not feel alone. My hope is that we will find creative ways to honor the class of 2020 as their high school years come to an end.”