971 and counting

Students petition against new school schedule

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Photo by Sasha Kek

About half of the student population is voicing their concern about a changing the school schedule to make Zoom meetings longer and passing periods shorter. “It’s just going to be more time spent on technology, which is never good,” Sydney Fessenden, junior who started a petition to the new schedule, said. “I feel like the schools praised a lot of, ‘get outdoors, try not to be on technology,’ but this extra time, I feel like it’s a little bit contradictory, but I know they’re just looking out for our best interest. People are going to feel like they’re on their iPad, literally their eyes glued to the screen, all day.”

The school plans to switch to a new schedule starting Monday, December 7, which will shorten passing periods to seven minutes and extend class periods to 40 minutes. This change has students voicing concern over the impending shift, including a petition that was started two weeks ago, which has garnered signatures from virtually half the student population.

“I made the petition because we’re all struggling so much, even if it’s a hard subject to talk about, even if people don’t talk about it a lot,” said Sydney Fessenden, junior who started a petition, to “have our voices heard” and “give people a sense of hope that things might get better” as she says she was crushed when the new schedule was announced. “Ultimately, my goal was to try and influence decisions made in the future [and] I was surprised that nobody thought of doing a petition because I’ve never really done anything like this, but I was just tired of feeling helpless and not having a say in the matter.”

But it is not just about feeling helpless. Adrian Boziloff, sophomore, says the existing schedule adapted for in-person learning in the fall also imposes difficulties on students because with all classes currently on Zoom, “it’s very difficult to focus and just to kind of get through the day [because] the entire world is against you; it doesn’t want you to focus.”

“Zoom meetings are extremely tiring to get through because you constantly have to struggle with your inner mind to not click off, not open another tab and do something completely unrelated; it’s a constant struggle,” Boziloff said. “Personally, it’s going to be significantly harder for me to stay focused and get through the day [with the new schedule]. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but even with the [existing] schedule, it’s quite hard for me to stay focused on Zoom meetings, especially since there are so many distractions, and I feel like with this schedule, it’ll only kind of escalate my inability to focus or be able to get through the day with perfect retention because it’s still several hours of almost non-stop Zoom meetings.”

The battle for focus is not the only challenge for students. Zoom meetings are “too often and too long” in the current schedule Boziloff said, which is tiring for students.

“As the schedule is right now, it already is tiring because these schedules assume that we’re in the same flow of things as we were previously in-person last year,” Boziloff said. “This new schedule that they’re proposing kind of has the same minutes and passing periods that a normal school schedule would have pre-quarantine, however, in-person and virtual is so different that it’s very difficult to have constant Zoom meetings because it gets extremely tiring; your eyes get tired and there’s electronic fatigue.”

As a student who also struggles with the long Zoom meetings, Kennedy Williams, senior, says as “I don’t think [the schedule change is] going to be good for us as “Zoom takes a lot out of you” throughout the school day.

“With the [fall] schedule, we were able to have more class time, and more time away from school and screen to do things that make us happy,” Williams said. “A lot of kids are complaining that their eyes and head [are] hurting, and that is just the start of it all. The shorter passing periods aren’t good because some kids only have that break during the day and shortening them is only going to make things worse for students.”

Williams plans to meet with Erin DeLuga, principal, on Monday, December 7, along with fellow seniors Grace Lightfoot, Nina Guarisco, and Camila Swiatlowski, to discuss their concerns about the school shifting to the new schedule.

“I’m hoping she sees how hard this is from a student’s perspective, and to even try and stop the schedule change before it becomes a permanent change,” Williams said. “A big concern is that a lot of students feel they’re not being heard and I’m trying to be a voice for them. I do understand this is hard for everyone, but ultimately I’m not sure the student voice is being heard.”

As Willaims works to represent the voices of 971 students as of December 6 that signed the petition at her meeting with DeLuga, Fessenden hopes the district will listen to the student voices and refrain from changing the class schedule.

“In order to make a change, I feel like more voices is better than one. One person who sends an email to the superintendent and the principal about how they feel is not going to make as big of an impact as 900+ voices signing that petition,” Fessenden said. “I applaud the school board for all the work they’ve done; they’ve been so dedicated and I’m grateful that they value our education so much, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful at all by my petition, but it definitely does make me sad that even after 900 people said that they’re unhappy and feel like their wellbeing is compromised with the schedule, [the school board] decided to make it even worse.”