A Whole New World: Millennium’s Remote Freshmen Enter High School Virtually


Hyland attending her Thursday classes

Tiffany Nguyen, Staff Writer

A freshman’s first day of school is one of the most nerve-wracking days in their high school career. From remembering to apply deodorant in the morning to being unsure if they brought enough lunch money to fretting over how to make their best first impressions with their peers and teachers, these high school newbies stress over the minor and major interactions that will set the tone for the struggle that is freshman year. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced many students to attend classes remotely, stripping freshmen students–for better or worse–of the classic first-day experience. In this year’s freshman class at Millennium Brooklyn, seventy-one students opted into remote learning. Though it is a safer option, many freshmen have expressed sadness that they have lost out on the opportunity to immerse themselves fully in the school’s inclusive community.

The first day of school as a freshman should be bewildering but enchanting at the same time. As one waits agonizingly in the line for the metal detectors, they mumble awkward hellos to potential new friends and look in awe at the cafeteria tables where upperclassmen eat breakfast with friends. This year, by contrast, students turned on their laptops or computers and clicked on the link for a Zoom class. Teachers introduced themselves to their students with cheery voices and optimistic expressions through staticky laptop speakers and blurry cameras. For Freshman student Ruby Hyland, the first day of school was devoted to Phys Ed. Going into the call, she, like most students, was confused about how gym class would operate virtually. To her surprise, the class was structured and well-managed. “I went into PE thinking it would be catastrophic,” she explains. “It went a lot better than I expected it to.” The first day of PE started with a welcome from Coach Zhu and an introduction to the class. The students proceeded to do a workout consisting of pushups, jumping jacks, and planks and concluded the class by visualizing a sport. Like Hyland, many students expressed an admiration for the systemized schedule. 

For these freshmen, remote learning was not necessarily a new concept, as last year’s spring term familiarized many with online classes. Though new to high school, these students are old pros in navigating the muted screens and chaotic chats of Zoom meetings, having endured during their senior year of middle school. At Millennium, students and teachers encountered minimal technical issues while logging on for their first day. As Hyland observes, since students had attended a couple of advisory Zooms before the first day of classes, they were more than ready to transition to a fully digital school year.

The problem which surfaced for many members of the Class of 2024 was that they struggled to engage in the social environment that Millennium offers. Typically, students can involve themselves in extracurricular activities to further explore their hobbies while also meeting peers who share similar interests. Though the school continues to offer clubs virtually this year, school sports have been put on pause by the pandemic. Students like Sylvia Cottrell, who was looking forward to joining the volleyball team, were disappointed when they discovered that they would be unable to participate in athletics this year. “I was interested in joining the volleyball team, or basically anything,” Cottrell says. “I was just excited for the high school experience, but it didn’t really work [out].” Interacting with new people and forming new friendships has never been more hard as it is during the quarantine. Denied the ability to meet others firsthand at sports practice or in first-period Algebra, freshmen students have had difficulty delving into the otherwise rich community that Millennium offers.

It is undeniable that virtual learning has been a struggle for many students. With a comfortable and cozy bed just a few feet away from the desk, it can be difficult to focus on schoolwork instead of taking a nap or scrolling through TikTok. Freshman student Alison Zhang is a fallen victim to procrastination along with the battle to concentrate during class. “It’s so hard to pay attention in class because you have your phone,” Zhang discloses. “In person, it’d be so much easier to pay attention.” Homework that may have seemed like an easy task before COVID hit can now take hours to complete because the home environment does not provide the same incentive to be productive that a school (or a teacher looking over your shoulder) might. Fortunately, teachers have been understanding and supportive in these unusual times. Zhang, alongside Cottrell and Hyland, have expressed that they are comfortable emailing and contacting teachers for aid and extensions, a lifeline for many students.