Semester in Review

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Photo curtesy of Ella Rabbani ’21

Eric Kalimi ’22

This semester has been like none other in Ramaz history. The administration rethought the way the school functioned in both a practical and safe manner. They used a hybrid model with only half the students in the building at a time. After last year’s fully online model, students were afraid and excited about the opportunity to return to the school building. As the semester comes to a close, students from all grades responded to a survey about how the transition to hybrid school has been.  

One of the most prominent positive experiences students had was the frequent outdoor class trips. Freshmen commented that the trips to Central Park made them feel relaxed and welcome while helping them bond with their new classmates. Aviva Schilowitz ’24 said, “I really enjoyed going out with my grade for the scavenger hunt. It was nice to be outside during the day and to spend time with friends.” Sophomores and juniors enjoyed ice skating trips with their friends and teachers. The school optimized the outdoor activities available to give students a well-needed and well-deserved break. 

Before the year began, the administration made decisions that drastically changed the Ramaz experience for safety purposes. Many students were upset to hear that there would be no lockers this year, so they would need to carry all of their belongings with them throughout the day. Therefore, during the first month of school, the administration listened to the students and reconsidered their decision. Students quickly received new locker assignments that were more spread out to maintain a proper distance. (Similarly, as per sophomore students’ request, during the freshman grade’s quarantine, they could come to the building an extra time. ) Rebecca Kalimi ’23 said, “When our grade could go in on Wednesday during Chanukah, I emailed our Grade Dean and asked for privileges [to go outside] because most of us had a lot of free time. Thankfully, the entire grade received privileges and had a great experience!” Students appreciate the administration and grade deans effort in making the hybrid schooling experience more enjoyable. 

Covid safe lunch at Ramaz was difficult with so many students in classrooms. In order to maximize the amount of outdoor space available for eating, students used both the terrace and 78th Street for lunch. There is now a tent on the terrace to allow students to eat outside, even when the weather is not so nice. To make lunches more entertaining, Ms. Cohen arranged for games such as ping pong and a pop shot on the street and terrace during lunch. Simeon Dicker ’21 said, “Lunch on the terrace is a well-deserved break from school for the fresh air and no mask atmosphere. I still go out  despite it being so cold.” Outside lunch has become a student favorite.

In the survey, many students reported that the new hybrid system creates a workload that was harder to manage. One junior said, “we really appreciate the job and effort that Dr. Block, the sophomore grade dean, and the administration has provided for all of us but there’s definitely room for improvement in the amount of communication between different teachers who over-assign work over the course of a single week.” According to the students, tests could have been spread out differently as to cause less stress for them. This semester, strict testing policies worked to maintain the intellectual integrity of the school and avoid cheating by only allowing testing in-person (with some exceptions). Students felt they could not enjoy their in-person days because they were focused on that day’s test.

This hybrid model has been difficult not only for the students, but for teachers as well. This year, several teachers opted to teach their students online for safety reasons. In the survey, students reported that online only classes were harder to keep up with than classes both in person and online. The hybrid difficulties extend to teachers who come to the building. Because of students who stay home, in person teachers have to keep two classes running at the same time. Students from all grades are grateful and impressed with their teachers’ abilities to juggle zoom and in person teaching at the same time.

Ramaz is notorious for their seven-day rotating schedule. This year, that schedule was traded in for a simpler, five-day schedule, which even gave students a shorter day (8:30 am to 4:00 pm). However, when the administration began to often change the schedule timing to a “Test Day” schedule, students’ lunches were shortened to allow for a testing hour earlier in the morning. Students were disappointed that their free time was cut, and so the administration responded. They traded the older “Test Day” schedule for a revised one, which placed the test period right before lunch. Those without a test, like students learning on Zoom, now have an extended lunch period, and even students with a test that day have a longer lunch break.

Looking back on a new and exciting semester at Ramaz, students of all grades recognizedboth the successes and failures of this hybrid school system. Students went on grade-bonding trips and used outdoor spaces to enjoy lunches, rain or shine. Many students were grateful for the increase in communication and response of the administration this semester as compared to last year. The administration responded to students’ request for lockers and for a longer lunch. However, the workload has been tough for many students and the testing is often overwhelming. Many feel the back and forth between in-person and  Zoom learning is also a struggle, especially when their teachers are exclusively on Zoom. Students hope the administration will continue to hear both their praise and criticism and act upon them.