Manhattan Hunter Science High School Ideals
Written By: Fatima El-Rowmeim
Published on March 27, 2023
It is the second school year back from online learning. After Covid, it is a new world, [we have entered a whole new landscape], especially for New York City. After the pandemic, academics are down, and anxiety is up. Manhattan Hunter Science is an early college high school that prides itself on how academically inclined its students are, and the level of support students receive. Our school always claims to want to hear student voices and their input on how the school is run. It claims it wants feedback on the class curriculum and how to create a positive and safe learning environment for all its students. Despite huge strides forward since the pandemic, we must acknowledge that it sometimes falls short when addressing our needs.
MHSHS wants student input on how the school operates and the class curriculum, but it needs to provide the space to do that and learn to accept and integrate student input. A study published in the American Journal of Education states, "In schools that students regard as responsive to their expressed critiques, students have better grades and attendance and reduced rates of chronic absenteeism. This is the first large-scale study employing panel data to examine the relationships between responsiveness to student voice and academic performance". However, this did change a bit when the juniors were given a school survey to reflect on their experience in school after their first semester. This was a big step in the right direction of encouraging student voice and student input. Nevertheless, after the school started receiving many of these survey responses, they pulled the survey so no more students could do it. This is like one step forward and three steps back. Many students have asked, 'How can the school provide its students with a survey to encourage them to give their input, but once they do not like it, the survey gets pulled automatically?' As a school community, we need to work together, both students and staff, to create the best learning and school environment possible. To do that, we need to take our student's input more seriously and work on communicating with each other.
Manhattan Hunter Science Students are high-achieving students taking rigorous classes and participating in many incredible after-school extracurriculars. It is great for our students to be academically challenged and get involved in many things they are passionate about. But with all these things they are doing, they end up being overworked, stressed, and anxious. According to the New York Times article, 362 School Counselors on the Pandemic's Effect on Children: 'Anxiety Is Filling Our Kids' it stated, "Nearly all the counselors, 94 percent, said their students were showing more signs of anxiety and depression than before the pandemic." Students have communicated with the school about this issue in many different ways. However, they are then faced with "learn to manage your time better" and "We are just preparing you for college." Yes, some students need to learn to manage their time better, but they do not know how to do that because it is not like the DOE ever formally teaches those skills to its students. These statements also have the effect of invalidating these students' stress and anxiety, which does not help anyone. MHSHS has an advisory for the freshman and sophomores and breathing exercises for 2 minutes after lunch, but this has yet to prove very effective on students' mental health. We need to take our students' mental well-being more seriously. If our students tell us they are stressed, we should not respond by adding more work and invalidating their emotions. Instead, we need to take care of our students' mental health because they will not do well academically if they are not doing well mentally and emotionally.
Another issue at the top of students' minds after the pandemic is safety. Manhattan Hunter Science High School does care about its students' physical safety, which is why we have many school security guards and have to go through metal detectors every day when we enter school. But sometimes, metal detectors are a negative experience. These metal detectors cause many students to come late because of scanning. Three schools are going through the same entrance through one metal detector. That is roughly 1,000+ students coming through the one metal detector that will cause students to become late to class. Our metal detectors and scanning only focus on belts and jewelry while students are, unfortunately, sneaking in vapes, cannabis, and drugs. This harms other students in our school because our hallways smell like cannabis. It is heartbreaking to see kids using drugs which ties back to their declining mental health. Our school provides an illusion of safety for our students by going through scanning every day, but students are still sneaking in drugs. Our campus also does not have cameras in its staircases, which is very concerning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public schools using security cameras as moderators have increased from 61.1% in 2010 to 91.1% in 2020. But we only have a camera on the 5th-floor staircase, which does not make sense because Manhattan Hunter Science students use those staircases from floors 1-5 to go to class in the morning, to the gym, and to the cafeteria. So if something happens in the staircases on any floor but the fifth floor, we will not know what has happened. We need Manhattan Hunter Science to take this more seriously by raising awareness of drug use and installing cameras on all floors of the staircases. We need to be more aware of what is happening in our school besides worrying about belts and jewelry at scanning. With the recent shooting incident outside the school, installing cameras throughout the school has never been more important.
Manhattan Hunter Science cares for its students in many ways, but we need Manhattan Hunter Science High School to step it up for its students. There has never been a more urgent time to implement positive changes. Listening to students' voices (even if that means uncomfortable conversations), taking steps to reduce anxiety and overwork with the student body, and taking concrete steps to ensure the safety of our students should be of utmost importance. Join me in having our voices heard by the staff at MHSHS. Join me in telling students to keep voicing their needs and concerns to the staff and adults at events and forms; Join me in encouraging student government to convey our legitimate concerns about anxiety, overwork, school safety, and our healthy development and transition into college. Our goals can only be accomplished if you join the chorus to tell the staff to implement measures that reduce our anxiety, raise our students' voices, and keep us safe.