A brand new highschool in NYC embraces a mixture of in-person and digital studying

Beginning freshman 12 months this September at Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow Excessive Faculty, River Wedding ceremony felt overwhelmed by its hulking campus with greater than 3,500 different college students.

The 15-year-old rapidly sought recommendation from their center college steering counselor. Inside days, they transferred to a city-run program referred to as A Faculty With out Partitions, becoming a member of its inaugural class of 55 ninth graders.

“There was like 9 folks within the class,” mentioned River, who makes use of they/them pronouns. “I used to be identical to, ‘Whoof, I can breathe.’” 

The brand new college makes use of a hybrid studying mannequin, the place college students alternate between finishing coursework at house and in conventional school rooms. However not like the hybrid program that colleges rapidly adopted through the top of the pandemic — when college students had extra restricted interactions with lecturers throughout distant instruction and fewer alternatives to work with friends when within the classroom — the leaders behind Faculty With out Partitions hope to overtake that strategy.

College students mentioned the brand new college provides extra construction and particular person steering for distant instruction than they skilled through the pandemic. However probably the most vital change is the varsity’s give attention to tasks and fieldwork which can be carried out away from college students’ properties and school rooms — alternatives that the varsity’s leaders say could be harder to drag off inside a standard schedule.

“We’re utilizing hybrid studying in order that college students have higher entry to sources in New York Metropolis and might interact in real-world studying,” mentioned Veronica Coleman, this system’s principal. “For some college students, going again to a constructing for a full day simply didn’t really feel prefer it was for them anymore.”

For now, college students spend half of every day at house finishing assignments and dealing with their lecturers on-line. The remainder of the day unfolds in particular person at an schooling division constructing in Downtown Brooklyn. As this system expands into tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades over the following three years, college students are anticipated to spend much less time on conventional coursework. 


Veronica Coleman, principal of Faculty With out Partitions, leads college students to the subway after a visit to Prospect Park.

Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat

Upperclassmen will full a minimum of one “ardour mission” of their very own design. Some college students are already serious about subjects starting from graffiti and road artwork to trend design that escapes conventional gender norms. These tasks may also incorporate internships, school coursework, or different work-based studying alternatives to foster a “higher understanding of what it’s that they could need to do after highschool,” Coleman mentioned.

The college was underneath improvement earlier than Chancellor David Banks took workplace, but it surely strains up with a few of his early priorities, comparable to giving college students an opportunity to discover profession pursuits effectively earlier than commencement. Banks has additionally mentioned that he desires to construct different packages that prime college college students discover extra participating.

A final-minute addition to highschool admissions lineup

It stays to be seen how well-liked the hybrid program will turn out to be. Although the varsity provided 100 seats this fall, it noticed a little bit greater than half of these spots crammed.

The college had restricted time to entice college students to use, Coleman mentioned, as the town introduced that purposes for this system had opened simply earlier than the highschool admissions deadline. This system additionally initially recruited college students alongside a separate absolutely digital program, additionally referred to as “Faculty With out Partitions,” resulting in some confusion amongst roughly 15 college students who later withdrew. (The town plans to vary the identify of the absolutely digital program.)

A number of college students who enrolled mentioned they have been having fun with this system up to now and appreciated this system’s uncommon construction. One scholar, for instance, mentioned the flexibility to work at home for half the day enabled him to assist take care of his grandmother.


Derrick Newell mentioned the varsity’s hybrid schedule allowed him to assist handle his grandmother.

Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat

One other scholar, Lena Gestel, mentioned she was initially skeptical of Faculty With out Partitions, however quickly found the hybrid mannequin allowed her to take dance courses that might have conflicted with the normal college day.  

“It’s method higher for my schedule,” mentioned 14-year-old Gestel. Plus, she’s been capable of get one-on-one assist from her lecturers if she’s struggling to finish assignments. 

One of many college’s greatest attracts, although, is the possibility to get out of the normal classroom and discover the town, particularly after many college students spent lengthy stretches of the pandemic confined to their properties.

College students have already taken a number of off-campus excursions together with visits to parks close to the varsity’s Downtown Brooklyn headquarters. They carried out “empathy interviews” to find out how persons are utilizing the general public areas and the way they may very well be improved. Due to a partnership with the park’s division, college students may have the possibility to immediately pitch their concepts to the company, Coleman mentioned.

On a current Wednesday, a visit targeted on environmental science despatched college students to Prospect Park to be taught in regards to the native ecosystem. Throughout an hour and a half hike, they discovered about native vegetation and in addition obtained some train — their Downtown Brooklyn constructing doesn’t have a fitness center for conventional bodily schooling courses.


College students at Faculty With out Partitions dug up crayfish in Prospect Park throughout an environmental science lesson.

Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat

Guided by parks division and college employees, the scholars snapped on blue rubber gloves and plunged nets right into a creek, unearthing leaves, mud, and crayfish. Later, they carried out water high quality checks for pH, temperature, nitrate, and dissolved oxygen. They examined hypotheses about whether or not the water was wholesome sufficient to maintain aquatic life. 

“We’re simply used to love buildings and stuff,” mentioned 14-year-old Faris Moataz, including that he’s been completely satisfied to spend time in nature. “Simply to love know that that is right here — it’s additionally cool.”

Work at your personal tempo

The college was designed in collaboration with NYC Outward Sure, a nonprofit that helps a community of public colleges that usually embody intensive tasks, outside schooling, and an advisory program referred to as “Crew” the place college students bond with one another and a school advisor over a number of years. Faculty With out Partitions acquired funding from the XQ Institute, a deep-pocketed group that funds teams which can be attempting to rethink the best way excessive colleges function. A bunch of scholar interns additionally supplied enter on the varsity’s design. 

Moataz and different college students mentioned they appreciated the Faculty With out Partitions’ unconventional strategy to teachers. This system makes use of a “competency-based” technique of instruction the place educators guarantee college students have mastered particular abilities earlier than transferring on. College students obtain narrative evaluations moderately than conventional letter grades. 

“This college, like, actually helps you so as to really perceive what you’re doing,” mentioned Moataz. “They’re not necessary on the deadline. So like for those who do [an assignment] a few days after, they’ll nonetheless take it.” He additionally likes with the ability to full assignments from house, the place he typically finds it simpler to pay attention.

Different college students have been extra nervous in regards to the college’s distant studying part, particularly after their experiences with on-line instruction through the pandemic.


River Wedding ceremony transferred to Faculty With out Partitions after feeling overwhelmed by a a lot bigger Brookyln highschool.

Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat

River, the coed who transferred from Murrow, mentioned it was a giant problem to handle their time after they have been studying remotely in center college through the pandemic. 

“I used to be like, no lecturers, utterly all on me, my grades have been taking place,” River mentioned, including that they missed lengthy stretches of college. “I didn’t know what to do.” 

However after they arrived at Faculty With out Partitions, River mentioned the lecturers provided loads of assist with distant coursework and weren’t “actually controlling” or “very strict,” which helps encourage them to stay with their assignments.

“You don’t really feel like it’s a must to get it accomplished instantly,” they mentioned.  “And also you don’t really feel burdened, after which push it away.”

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, masking NYC public colleges. Contact Alex at azimmerman@chalkbeat.org.

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