NYC’s elite students slam Mayor de Blasio’s push for in-school learning

The city’s smartest students have overwhelmingly rejected Mayor de Blasio’s plan for blended learning, The Post has learned.

The top scholars, who fill the city’s most prestigious public high schools, are mostly opting to stay home and learn remotely, not trusting plans to keep them safe from coronavirus.

“The measures put in place by the mayor and the chancellor just have not been there,” said Krish Shah, a senior at the Bronx High School of Science. “They haven’t done anything over the summer to show that they can sustain in-person learning without having [COVID-19] cases.”

Shah, 17, who hopes to study business at an Ivy League college, said he would remain at his Queens home as school gets underway Sept. 21.

He is among at least 84 percent of Bronx Science’s 2,969 students who chose remote instruction, according to Jerome Kramer, a co-president of the school’s PTA.

The DOE put the number of remote requests for the school at 63 percent Friday and could not explain the discrepancy.

At Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, 71 percent of the school’s nearly 3,400 students will stay home, according to an email sent Monday by the school’s principal. And that number is rising.

The DOE said 57 percent of Brooklyn Tech’s students had requested fully remote instruction.

The stay-home rates at the elite high schools are starkly higher than the 37 percent citywide rate of students who have picked remote learning as of Monday.

The Bronx High School of Science
The Bronx High School of ScienceJ.C.Rice

Those families have rejected a “blended learning” plan that would put students in their classrooms from one to three days a week and learning online the remainder of the time.

At Bronx Science, fewer than 500 students could be rattling around the sprawling Bedford Park campus.

Matthew Ostapenko, 15, a sophomore from Queens, said he chose the remote option because he was told Advanced Placement classes, which could lead to college credit, would not be available under the blended model.

He said the commute from Rego Park was also a problem because his school bus had been canceled.

Krish Shah with his mom Rinku Shah.
Krish Shah with his mom Rinku Shah.Helayne Seidman

“I was never really comfortable with taking the train … because that’s probably the easiest way to get yourself infected,” he said.

At Stuyvesant in Lower Manhattan, only 977 pupils have chosen blended learning, a number that fell from 1,065 on Aug. 19, principal Seung Yu wrote.

But with students only coming in about once a week, just 244 will be in the massive, 10-story building on their designated day. And they won’t even see a teacher. The students will learn remotely within the school, taking classes online as they sit in the gym or auditorium and their teacher is elsewhere in the building, or possibly at home.

Nearly a quarter of the staff, or 54 people, received approval for a medical accommodation and won’t be coming to the building, Yu wrote.

“A 10-story building with 3,400 students from literally every single borough and neighborhood in the city is a breeding ground for Covid,” said Julian Giordano, 17, a Stuyvesant senior.

But he said he would give blended learning a try because he can bike to school from his Upper West Side home, and, as acting president of the Student Union, he wanted to be on campus.

“I can show up to school on the first day and if I feel like it’s not safe and I feel like it’s not worth it. I can switch back,” he said.

Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are two of the city’s eight specialized high schools, which require a top score on an entrance exam for admission.

Umutcan Vargelci, the senior class president at Brooklyn Tech, another specialized high school, said the effort to keep schools open seemed like a waste of resources.

Stuyvesant High School
Stuyvesant High SchoolAP

“They could have just invested all of the money into remote to ensure that people have the technology and the internet access instead of putting lots of students at risk,” he said.

Still, Vargelci said he picked blended instruction to be on campus as a class officer at the 6,000-student school. But he said he didn’t think the building would be open for long since city rules call for closing a school for at least 24 hours if there are two or more cases of COVID-19 in different classrooms.

“Especially at big high schools like Brooklyn Tech or Stuyvesant or Bronx Science … it just doesn’t seem feasible that the schools would be able to be open for more than a couple of days without the two-case rule where they have to shut the whole school down,” he said.

DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon said, “When we pivoted to remote learning in the fall, it was a herculean task and although the vast majority of students across the city will return to classrooms in the fall, some students and families prefer a remote environment.”

At top-rated Townsend Harris High School in Queens, Sharon Li, the Student Union president, estimated that half of the 1,300 students including herself had chosen remote learning.

She said students worried that with blended education, elective classes would be cut because the school needed to spend money to hire more teachers in order to teach both in-person and remotely.

Townsend Harris High School
Townsend Harris High SchoolEllis Kaplan

An editorial in the school newspaper posted Thursday urged all students to select remote instruction in order to maintain the classes.

Ali Boivab, 17, a Townsend Harris senior and Student Union vice president, opted for online instruction.

“I don’t understand how an education system that is drenched in structural poverty can suddenly fix all the air vents and horrific sanitary conditions in some schools,” Boivab said. “I don’t trust the mayor’s approach to opening school this fall at all. I think they are trying to do the unthinkable.”

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