The coronavirus pandemic might as well have been something out of a history book to look at the students jammed in halls and stairways at Forest Hills High School this week.
Photos provided to The Post showed students trying to negotiate the packed halls between classes, and sitting on top of one another in a cafeteria.
The crowding has parents and teachers begging the Department of Education for answers.
“There’s no social distancing whatsoever,” said one mom. “New York City is putting Forest Hills High School students’ lives at risk.”
Another parent noted there were more restrictions to get into a New York City restaurant than to attend the school.
“We can put 4,000 kids in a building, in a petri dish?” said Shelly Channan, whose son is a junior. “I just don’t understand the concept. I don’t get it.”
Overcrowding is an issue at several of the city’s high schools, including Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where a parent tweeted a video this week of a packed hallway.
“This is Fort Hamilton High School yesterday. Even with staggered schedules, it cannot contain its 5,000 student population when the building was built for 3,000,” Paullette Healy wrote on Wednesday with the hashtag #restoreremote.
Mayor De Blasio said city schools, which reopened Monday, would have no remote option this year.
With nearly 4,000 students, Forest Hills High School, is at about 196 percent of building capacity, said Adam Bergstein, the UFT chapter chairman and an English teacher at the school.
“People are wearing masks, otherwise it’s like nothing has changed from February of 2020 until today,” Bergstein said.
He wrote to Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter on Sept. 8, asking how the Department of Education would keep staff and students safe.
“And with all due respect, everyone is aware of the regurgitated platitudes of mask wearing and being vaccinated,” he wrote. “Although those two measures are important and do help keep people safer, they do not contain a virus that is resiliently mutable.”
He said he did not receive a response.
“It’s only a matter of time before we have the spike of COVID cases,” said Elena Aminova, the parent of a junior, “Some parents are not sending their kids to school because of this.”
The school should offer a remote learning option to free up space, stagger classes or perhaps reduce the course load for juniors and seniors so they take only classes necessary for graduation, she said.
Experts suggested there was more the city could be doing to keep students safe in crowded schools.
“I would strongly encourage them not to have children using the cafeteria. They have to take off their masks to eat and it’s crowded. They’re going to be really close to one another,” said Susan Hassig, associate professor of epidemiology at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.
Dr. Kitaw Demissie, the dean of SUNY Downstate’s School of Public Health, said the city should stagger the times to change classes and ramp up student testing beyond the 10 percent of unvaccinated kids at each school that are to be randomly tested every other week.
“Every student, every week needs to be tested,” Demissie said. “Ten percent is very small.”
The DOE noted that students are in hallways for a few minutes, which limited potential virus exposure, and that it was working with leaders of larger schools on issues such as using alternative spaces for lunch.
It said it had taken measures at Forest Hills High School to spread out students including hiring extra staff to aid in distancing and repurposing spaces for extra room.
“We opened our schools safely this year by repurposing interior space, hiring additional staff, staggering student schedules, using outside space, and adding increased ventilation and additional air purifiers,” said DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer.