The Technical Truth
Coming Back From COVID
By Alexis Hernandez
The students of Queens Technical High School have seemed to be recovering from what could be the worst mental and social health decline in their lives. However, the road to that recovery was a tough one.
The low point of having low social interaction and mental health have seemed to pass with the schools back open with many students saying that their social and mental level have gone to pre COVID levels with students such as Junior Nathan Dhanraj stating that, "It's better now cause I'm doing a lot more stuff, y’know socially I’m hanging out, I'm going out… My mental health is pretty good.”
Also with current Junior and Sophomores, having this school year being their first full year in the building, it seems that students are lost in the shuffle of school with Sophomore Marcos Muñoz stating ,“I don't know where stuff is, especially in the beginning I was confused.”
The school year of 2019-2020 and more specifically March 13, 2020 seems like a lifetime ago but it would mark the last year and day of normalcy for students before everything went down.
Students' main reactions to the “two week” shutdown was one of relief with many students who were overwhelmed with school work relieved that they would have a break from it all.
But the road to recovery was a long one with some students losing contact with friends over the course of the pandemic with Junior MD Islam stating , “More like losing contact with friends, y’know separation with friends. A lot of my friends did move out.”
With the decline of basically everything, students can attest that their overall health has dropped with the lockdown with Junior Adrik Hernandez stating , “ School life, social life, mental health, physically and mentally, everything went downhill.”
It affected the students so much that some teachers noticed the decline with English teacher Ms. D’Astolfo stated, “I’m finding that the kids as they’re coming back, they’re a lot more quiet, reserved and and afraid to speak up in class and it's probably because it's been so long.”
But now, we are here in school with all of us in person. The busy hallways and staircases, it seems we are getting back into normality with students such as Islam stating “We’re more socially active now that we’re out, especially at school we get to interact with each other. Hernandez stating “Even though I lost two years of high school, right now I'm just thinking forward and making the most of it.” Also, our sophomore students are doing well with Marcos saying “Major improvement for sure, overall I feel better, I feel like I’m doing better.”
While not everyone has recovered the same, Ms. D’Astolfo has a piece of advice for the students out there still struggling by saying, “Don't be afraid to ask for help, don't be too shy to ask for help. There are so many adults in this building that are here to help you and here to get you where you need to be socially, academically, emotionally and just don't be afraid to reach out.”
Queens Tech Restricts Many Websites
by Mohammad Salam
At Queens Technical High School, websites are blocked in order to prevent students and teachers from accessing certain websites. Some of those blocks took place in 2020 and previous years. Some examples of blocked websites include Discord and Netflix, as mentioned by some of the students that have been surveyed. The latest ban, which happens around the end of the school year, affected Discord, which was previously not banned. There are many other sites, aside from the ones mentioned, that are banned.
Websites are banned, so students don’t access graphic or inappropriate sites. As the New York Department of Education website states, “Internet access and e-mail provided by the Department are intended for educational use, instruction, research, and the facilitation of communication and collaboration.”
Levi Lin, a senior at the school, agrees. He states, “I think it’s fair because it’s not too extreme because they are only blocking websites that distract students.” This brings up the question of what regulations are set in place for blocking these certain websites. Senior Levi explains why he believes the school would prohibit such websites, saying, “I can understand their reasons because technology like your computer and phone can be very distracting for students learning.” Christian Garcia, also a senior, states that, “It's fair because the school's main goal is to educate and this is them enforcing it.” He also adds, “The school has the right to do so.”
However, if we look at the other side of this spectrum, we see that Senior Mateusz Boguski says, "I would disagree because you can use sites like Discord to reach out to people and communicate with them, such as setting up servers for our classroom.” And he adds that, “it means no harm and there are social media sites that are unblocked, like Instagram, which I would consider would cause more harm than discord.” He showed his disapproval of the blocks they made, which he felt were unreasonable.
Another student from Queens Technical, also the founder of the cybersecurity club, Issac Teoh, states, “Even though the school has the right to restrict student access to certain websites during school hours since schools are intended as spaces to learn, we should not forget that schools also serve as a community and a safe space for young adults to socialize.”
Issac conveyed the two sides of the argument. However, he also states that ,“some technology-savvy students will find a way to circumvent the blockages, such as setting up VPNs and using online cloud services like Amazon Web Services.”
What are VPNs exactly? “VPN” stands for “Virtual Private Network.” It allows the user to connect to a remote private network while on a public network. For example, our school internet would be our public network that contains all the blocked websites. If a student connects to a VPN, then the device with the VPN would go through the school's network into a private remote server somewhere other than our school, which in turn would bypass all of the blocked websites as they are no longer on our school's network and on a private network in another area.
While some believe it is a distraction and that the school has the right to prohibit students from accessing these websites, others believe it would be beneficial for students to have access to some of these websites as well, and some have the ability to bypass them if necessary.
The Door is Locked and QT Needs to Pee
by Ahnaf Ahmed
Virtually every bathroom at Queens Technical has been closed since October, and it has been affecting everyone. The only bathrooms open today are the bathroom on the first floor next to the school entrances.
“Too many students are taking advantage of the facility, and staying in the bathroom and not allowing other students in,” stated George Alikakos, the assistant principal in security at the school.
When talking about the bathrooms, Alikakos said it was “shameful” that they needed to be monitored, and that “there’s no reason for it.”
He believes it is ridiculous that he needs to pay someone who could do something else to force them to ensure the bathrooms aren’t vandalized. He did say he was “open to any suggestions,” for alternatives to monitoring the bathrooms.
If caught vandalizing, students will get suspended for one to five days, depending on the severity of the vandalism.
Alikakos has said there were improvements after bathrooms have been monitored, and there has not been any vandalism in the bathrooms since and there has not .
“The state of the bathrooms was tragic before being monitored,” is how Keane Garcia, a student currently attending Queens Technical, described the bathroom.
Keane is not the only one who feels like this. Hari Papajani, another student here at QT, described the bathrooms as being “messy and unsafe,” while Samantha Carangui described the bathrooms before monitoring as being “more messy and dirty before.”
Bathrooms being dirty is not something that is new. Former student, Andrew Dimech who graduated in June of this year, stated, “a lot of the time, people would end up smoking in the bathroom.” Dimech recalls how “there was a time in the main bathrooms where there just wasn’t soap,” which he believed was “disturbing.” He believes that “it really boils down to us respecting one another because that would then mean less fights, and that would mean more communication as individuals.”
"Former student" turned QT computer repair teacher, Botao Yu, stated the bathrooms were dirty “sometimes.” Batao also stated, “Back in the day, it seemed the bathrooms were less of a hang out spot.”
Since the monitoring, some people have noticed changes in the bathrooms.
Garces stated, “I have noticed the bathrooms are way cleaner and more efficient as more students don’t have to wait or be crowded in them. The monitoring has been successful as the bathrooms have been cleaner, there has been more space overall and better improvement has been made.”
Papajani on the other hand believes that “there haven’t really been any improvements in the bathrooms. I feel that the monitoring hasn’t been successful at all.”
Carangui stands in the middle. She believes, “Once in a while, you can see the improvement. But it doesn’t last long. No, the monitoring hasn’t been successful.”
Bathroom monitoring has affected more than students. Ms Dimech, a Geometry teacher, said, “It’s helped tremendously with students coming in and out of class on time.” She also stated, “Very often at high traffic times, students are missing too much class instruction.”
Botao Yu further stated, “I don’t personally have issues with students taking too long in the bathroom except for one student in particular, but yes it probably seemed to help.”
At the beginning of December, there were even more changes to the bathroom.
Flyers on the first floor bathrooms next to the entrance on 37th street were put up, giving rules for the bathrooms, such as they would be closed from 10:01 to 10:30am everyday, and that they would be locked the first and last ten minutes of class everyday.
Additionally, you must have a pass to use the bathrooms. Even during lunch periods, you must bring a pass and show your schedule to the bathroom supervisor.
by Azeem Mir
For those who fancy a good comic, you can find Mr. Bahrenburg every Monday from 3:30 to 5:30 in room 356, hosting The Comic Book Club.
Two members of the club, Sarah Barkatz and Jaqueline Animas, select their comics for independent reading. (J. Bahrenburg)
Junior Anna Pereira, found out about the club after spending her lunch period in Mr Bahrenburg's journalism class, and hearing him talk about this club. She stated “mostly friendships finding nerdy people to talk to." She has currently made three new friends.
Mr. Bahrenburg feels safe and excited to be back and to see everyone face to face. He stated, "Everyone is masked up, and following the correct protocols."
Bahrenburg's reason for starting the club was due to his passion and love for comic books. "I think that the kids in the school have recently kinda come into, and I think, comics in general has come into a pop culture resurgence so I figured that comic book club could be something I and the students could get excited about," he said.
One way Bahrenburg engages his club members is by introducing them to new comics and new characters. "They know their Marvel Characters; they know their DC characters, but I'm trying to bring in some newer comics, maybe some independent comics," says Bahrenburg. He has the hopes of bringing the latest issue each week.
The club starts off with an independent reading session. The book and comic that I chose was JoJo's Bizzare Adventure Volume 1 Phantom Blood, and a DC Booster Gold comic.
After the independent reading session the club had a discussion about the recent Spider-Man trailer and the potential coverups they did on the trailer. Afterwards they finished up a movie they were watching last week, Captain America: Civil War, then started watching the season premiere for The Flash.
For those who Marvel at the heroes and villains on the printed pages or the silver screen, Comic Book Club would suit you well.
Must Teens Get the Covid-19 Vaccine?
by Melody Gonzalez
The polarization of the Covid-19 vaccine has been fascinating to unravel. Apparently a great percentage of our society distrusts science. The vaccine, instead of being taken seriously has, to many, become a second thought or even something to joke about.
It is crucial to vaccinate our kids.
Both history and science must be reflected on for advancement, and yet society stubbornly keeps denying the truth that vaccinations are crucial for human progress and survival. The Cleveland Clinic Medical Center has reported that “roughly 70 percent to 85 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach the herd immunity threshold.” However, according to NPR.org only “34.8 percent of the total U.S. population” has been fully vaccinated. Only 24.6 percent of children ages 12 to 17 are vaccinated, according to ChildsStats.gov.
Here at Queens Tech, some students believe the focus should be centered on people who need the vaccine more. Senior David Cardoso states, “Our bodies are really young and healthy. During the pandemic, you almost never heard about kids becoming extremely ill due to the virus, because the virus affected older people, people whose bodies are old and aren’t as strong and healthy as the rest of us, they need that extra aid of the vaccine more than anyone.”
Yet the main focus of the vaccine is to create immunity to the virus. The U.S. has control of the majority of the vaccines, which countries like India are in desperate need of, and still most Americans reject the scientific suggestion of vaccinating due to conspiracy theories.
Agreeing with Cardoso, senior Kimberly Mera stated “You don’t really know if that will harm them. Also not everyone will agree with this since people have different beliefs.”
With the recent blood clotting due to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it’s understandable to have fears and doubts, but a society should never live in fear and rather research the rest of the vaccine options like Pfizer and Moderna which have shown a 94 to 95 percent effectiveness, according to the CDC.
Senior Rachel Mai emphasized the importance of vaccination for kids and stated “It helps not just themselves, it helps the others around them too plus it's honestly a privilege to be able to get vaccinated.”
The most wonderful thing about asking Queens Tech students was seeing how, at all grade levels, many were aware of the importance of vaccinations.
Freshman Christopher Crespo stated, “I feel if everyone gets a vaccine, we can all go back seeing friends and family.” He adds, “ I don’t like online school and I learn better from actually sitting in a classroom.”
Junior Maria Parache simply yet efficiently stated the main idea of the vaccine: “So we can all be safe.”
Definitely gives me hope for the future.
Pandemic Affects College Process
by Rob Neagu
April 30, 2021
Former Queens Tech students participate in a Question and Answer session at the University of Connecticut (J. Bahrenburg)
This Saturday, May 1, also known as Decision Day, college-accepted high school seniors will make their final decision deciding where to enroll. Leading up to it, however, the 2020-2021 application process proved to be a whole new hectic experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students who applied for college this year demonstrated high levels of anxiety. Queens Technical High School senior, Ethan Vasquez, describes the fully remote application process as being “more difficult than imagined.”
A major roadblock that he and others stumbled over was getting assistance from advisors. Vasquez said, “I couldn’t talk to my advisors in-person for help and it’s hard to find the time to talk to them over the phone.”
Another obstacle many faced was the cancellation of classes and clubs they planned to attend senior year. “A lot of scholarships require that you be an actively participating member of your school community, which is hard to be considering the pandemic’s effect on clubs and such,” Vasquez stated. Taking part in these activities benefits an application and gives more scholarship opportunities. Many clubs were not able to meet until midway through the year, and some never met at all.
If the college application process is so stressful this year, what was it like in the past?
Former Queens Tech alumni, class of 2019, Max Romero, shares his college application experience pre-pandemic:
Stress was still present. Romero stated “the thought of going to college used to make me feel anxious.”
Former Queens Tech students tour Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York approximately 3 hours from Queens Tech. (A. Karabelas)
However, a major resource Romero had was access to physical campus tours. He said, “Seeing the environment I would be in played a big part in my decision.” Visiting multiple campuses benefits students by providing first hand experiences and interactions, helping them choose the right college.
Romero also had consistent in-person aid for applications. It helped, as he stated “[Queens Tech] as a whole made me feel like I was not alone during application season.” The feeling from face to face college assistance is something that cannot be replicated in other ways.
“Hands-on help [is] really the only way to provide the best and most efficient assistance,” stated Ms. Karabelas, Queens Tech’s college advisor. She points out that previously, she had the option to “call a student from class if I saw an error of some kind.” Now, however, Karabelas says that students have to take the initiative if they need assistance with their college applications, and most of the assistance is giving through online communication.
“Hearing about student acceptances in person and congratulating them on the spot was my favorite part of the school year,” said Karabelas. Students now get congratulated virtually when they get a college acceptance. These students don’t get the true feeling of getting an acceptance.
Covid-19 Testing Taking Place at Queens Tech
by Melody Gonzalez
May 6, 2021
Queens Technical High School has been one of the many schools that partakes in testing 20% of the building’s capacity.
Testing is administered by two state certified Department of Health Employees in the school's auditorium. (M. Gonzalez)
The Department of Education has instituted a citywide Covid-19 testing mandate for students who participate in blended learning and attend live instruction. Trained officials are sent by the Department of Health. The school is notified the day before with instructions and the time schedule for the tests.
The testing occurs only once a week, and consecutively moves forward by testing the next group of the students the next week. For example, if one week Monday’s students are tested, the next week Tuesday’s students would be tested. By the end of the month all students who enter the building will be tested. Teachers get tested when they bring down the students to the auditorium, or when given the chance to go during their prep or lunch periods.
All students who entered the building were required to bring in a slip signed by their parents or guardians, authorizing the school to conduct Covid-19 tests during school hours. When a student refuses to partake in the tests, their parents or guardians of that student are called. If the student continues to deny participation, they are then sent home and switched to remote learning.
Junior Hugo Aspiroz states, “When it was my first day back they said we were gonna get tested and I never got tested before so I was scared but I don’t mind it now it was okay.” According to Apiroz, the speed of the testing can vary due to the lines. “It’s every three weeks that the test happen, but some days it went slow in the line, some went fast.”
The tests are conducted with nasal swabs for PCR tests with two medical officials conducting the tests. One writes the personal information and scans the testing tube and the second conducts the nasal testing. After the testing, students and staff return to their activities and classes. Then, as protocol, all results are confidentially and individually emailed to the patient.
One positive case has been confirmed at Queens Technical High School, however, “there has been no real threat, the case wasn't in the building and they were not in contact. So it was an outsider, no reason to quarantine the schools,” stated Mr. Gallagher, AP of English, Foreign Language and Social Studies. He stated that The Department of Education notified the school and the situation was handled accordingly.
Students and Staff Return to Building with Mixed Emotions
by Melody Gonzalez and Robert Neagu
March 26, 2021
Six hundred and fifty four students opted to return to classes in Queens Technical High School on Monday, March 22 for the second round this school year, after over four months of remote learning. Eight hundred and eleven students remain learning remotely.
The school building will only be open to students Monday through Wednesday, and students will be organized into three groups. Group A, which are students whose last names end with the letters A-F will attend on Mondays. Group B whose last names fall in between letters G-O will attend on Tuesdays. Lastly Group C, last names between P-Z, will attend on Wednesdays. The remaining students who stay remotely will be categorized as Group D and will not have to go inside the building. Thursday and Friday all groups stay home.
Out of the 99 teachers the school employs, 65 will be returning to the building to teach live instruction. The other 35 will remain teaching remotely. Blended students who have staff teaching remotely will attend their classes in the cafeteria.
Returning to blended learning for shop teachers is proving challenging. The major concern for both teachers and students is how remote students will complete hands-on activities.
Mr. Raushan, a pre-engineering teacher, is currently experimenting with various routes through which remote students can still receive the experience of hands-on activities. According to Raushan, the current method he uses is a “virtual setting to apply theory applications in a virtual environment.” Being able to work with softwares that provides a similar experience to hands-on activities could keep remote students on level with class.
Another concern that shop teachers have for their remote students is how they will take their certification exams. These exams are not typical finals, rather they are given by a national or international administration, some of which even require hands-on testing. These certifications are crucial for students at Queens Tech since some are required in order to graduate with CTE endorsement or get a job right after high school.
With the return of blended learning, students who attend school will get an opportunity to take their exams, but how about for students who are remote?
According to Ms. Ramdeo, an assistant principal and pre-engineering teacher, to complete their certifications “students [who are] remote [will] get invited to do the hands-on activities [and] come on specific days.”
For example, the Pre-Engineering class has to take their Alternating Current certification. Students doing hybrid learning will complete the certification when they are in the building; remote students will come on scheduled Saturdays by appointment to take their examination.
Queens Tech has paired with the company Engineering Tomorrow, providing students with take-home materials to perform experiments and labs. In addition, Engineering Tomorrow provides live, informative sessions during class time. These sessions are either with college engineering students or a worker who has a job in the engineering field. Engineering Tomorrow offers lessons on anything from 3D printing to water treatment.
Justin Lagos, a senior, said, “I rather go into school, I can do nothing and pass my classes, but when I do nothing in remote I don't pass my classes.”
Junior Mike Tamayo felt differently, “I prefer remote learning since I get to be in my own environment and feel safe in my house.”