Francis Lewis Reopens School Building to Blended Learning Students

The NYC Department of Education announced that NYC public high school buildings will reopen on March 22 as students can now opt back into in-person learning. Since NYC public schools closed down once again in November due to an increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate, there have been several changes to the previous in-person instructional program created by Francis Lewis administration at the beginning of the school year.

“In terms of the reopening of Francis Lewis, I’m very excited about it,” Principal Dr. Marmor said. “We set up a situation where kids could come in and get both social and emotional supports engaged in activities, both physical and educational, and have a tremendous amount of academic instructional support in any area that they need.  All of this is accomplished without changing any of their classes and without disrupting any of our actual core and instructional program.”

When NYC public school buildings reopened at the beginning of the school year, blended learning students had the option of attending Zoom classes while in the building or tutoring for a specific subject. Students were separated into various color pods to ensure that they did not come into contact with other people while in the building.  Now, students are given a menu to choose from different types of engaging activities, or they can go to a “home base” classroom dedicated for attending Zoom classes or doing other classwork throughout the day. 

“We are inviting kids to come in for one day a week to start with, and during that day when they are here, they have what is called a ‘home base’,” Dr. Marmor said.  “Home base is a classroom or a computer lab where each child knows that they have a dedicated place to go, that’s just for them for the whole day.” 

Teachers are assigned to a home base classroom to offer students support as well as give them advice on the opportunities available at Francis Lewis for that day. 

“I have been assigned as a ‘home base’ teacher and will provide a space for less than 15 students to have an assigned location for the school day,” U.S. History teacher Mrs. Allen said. “They can experience activities and workshops on their off periods or take the time to do work in my home base room. I’d like to get to know these new students (of different grade levels) to be able to support them academically, socially, or in whatever way they need.”

Blended learning students are excited to return to school and have a bit of normalcy back into their lives.

“I can’t wait to be able to see my teachers in person and meet my classmates,” freshman Alecia Larussa said. “I went in-person on Monday and met my English teacher. She was very nice and willing to help with anything and I was happy to finally see her. It’s also been hard to make friends online so I am excited to see classmates in person so maybe I can make some more friends.”

Francis Lewis teachers also shared Larussa’s sentiments.

“I am very excited for schools to reopen,” Mrs. Allen said.  “I know that there are many students yearning for human interaction, much like myself with my fellow colleagues.  Even though we are not back to the way things used to be, the opportunity to reopen allows for everyone to have that face to face interaction and get into a new environment other than your workspace at home.”

When school buildings were closed, some students struggled to focus on their studies at home, but now that schools have reopened, students hope they will have a more engaging and fun learning experience once they return. 

“I feel like the schools reopening for blended learning is great,” Larussa said. “Certain kids, like myself, find it really hard to feel productive/motivated when staying home all day or not being in the school building.  Going back gives me a place to socialize and become familiar with the school as well.”

In addition to an extensive list of tutoring options, there are a plethora of engaging activities available to blended learning students, such as playing tennis, mindfulness and meditation, and even karaoke. 

“I think this will make the students that chose blended learning feel happier,” senior Samantha Farias said. “Most of us that chose blended learning were not doing well at home all the time, mental health wise. I had no one to really talk to and I felt alone most of the time with my emotions, so being at school interacting with people can help that.”

Dr. Marmor confirmed that the health protocols in place are following NYC guidelines.

“We are enforcing the six-foot distancing rules as we’re coming in, we’re taking temperature checks at the entrances, we’re asking students to fill out the COVID-19 screener survey, we are wearing masks at all times, [and] keeping capacity in the rooms at the proper level, which means 12 or less in most rooms.”

“We have only been using the rooms that have proper ventilation, and keeping a very watchful eye on anybody who has tested positive and making sure that those are properly reported and traced.”

Mrs. Allen agrees that coming back into the building, even for one day a week, will be beneficial to everyone.

“Just having the time to talk to someone not on Zoom or go for a walk on the track in the spring weather has already made me feel more positive about finishing the school year,” Mrs. Allen said.  “I feel that the plan in place will help our students on a variety of levels.”