Distance Learning is the best option for Westford Public Schools

With all the snow days that have occurred this year, the school district is considering an option for making up the curriculum. At the school committee on Monday, March 26, Superintendent Bill Olsen will be presenting the Distance Learning Pilot Proposal. This plan will end school on Friday, June 22, rather than going into the fourth week of June and ending on Wednesday, June 27. Students will work on three sets of assignments given out by their teachers to be completed within two-week windows before the end of this school year.

This school district values classroom time and really takes student stress into account. Even though this plan might be slipping away from those ideas, considering the current circumstances, The WA Ghostwriter understands and supports Olsen and his proposal.

“Although we know the highest form of learning takes place in a school classroom with a highly qualified teacher, support staff or specialist, this is an option that the Department of Education recognizes as a viable means for compensating for lost school days,” Olsen wrote in his email to parents regarding the proposal.

Going into the last week of June could be problematic for many students. Based on a district-wide view, most students will be able to take on a little extra school work during the school year. Furthermore, the fourth week of June marks the beginning of many internship programs, camps, and tournaments for sports, and also any international exchange students will be heading back after the third week of June. Anybody in any of these situations will need to make up any final exams before they leave, which would add to their end-of-year stress and adding to the pressure already facing students at WA.

Considering other options as well, taking days off of April break or attending school on Saturdays would not be effective. Students who have made plans for April break will most likely not hesitate in skipping out on school days. Saturdays are often important days for any tournaments, conventions, sporting events or performances, which students can often not miss. And for those who do not have any such commitments, students simply need their weekend to stay away from school and come back on Monday more ready to start a new week.

Taking all these probable situations into consideration, along with weighing in alternatives and time constraints, the Distance Learning plan seems to work best for this school year. However, there is ample room for improvement, should the district have to implement this in the future.

First of all, earlier notification of the plan would have been helpful to students. The third and fourth terms tend to to be stressful for students, especially those in high school, and if more work is given, it could amplify the already potent stress during this time.

Additionally, this time of year is when students students have many sporting and extracurricular commitments.  In the future, if the work could be made up closer to the actual snow days, it would be much more convenient to students. Granted, this year was a special case where many of our snow days ended up in March. However, should we implement this program in the future, the time of the school year should be considered.

Something that will worry students as a result of this plan will be time management. They will be required to balance regular schoolwork as well as extra work from the snow days. The estimate in the proposal is that students will receive about thirty minutes of work from each class, but depending on each student or the assignment, that could vary. Furthermore, teachers should be required to adhere to the thirty minute rule. It cannot be expected that a student complete an assignment such as two chapters of a book with analysis questions in thirty minutes without producing low quality answers.

Overall, the program can be revised in numerous ways, but without it, we could be going to school during April break, on Saturdays, or right before the fourth of July. All options have their pros and cons, but ultimately, District Learning is the most effective plan for the district.