New schedule promotes normalcy at risk of student health

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A group of students sit crowded around a table eating and doing work.

Melanie Duronio, Features Editor

Picture this: you are a student in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Although your life is anything but normal, you still have an obligation to go to school and complete your work each week from behind either a screen or face mask. For the past eight months, you have followed either a fully remote or hybrid-style schedule, attending only three classes a day in a half-day format. It is not what you were used to, you gradually got used to it.

Now it is the first week back from April break and you are expected to adjust back to a full-day schedule, meaning that for the first time in months you will be meeting with all of your classes on a daily basis. This is the situation that many WA students, including myself, have found themselves in this past week.

The shift from almost eight months of hybrid learning straight to an everyday five-class school schedule has been incredibly jarring, although, I know there was not much that could be done to make this transition completely perfect. It is to be expected that the first week back with full-length classes would take some time to adjust to. 

If I’m being honest, I have actually enjoyed most aspects of the new schedule. It’s great to see my teachers every day, eat lunch with my friends in the cafeteria, and catch up with those from the opposite pod. Without our previous half-day schedule, there is a stronger sense of normalcy. However, this new schedule comes with its own drawbacks that have made it harder to properly adjust back to school this first week.

The workload for instance has been one aspect that I have struggled with this week. When I had three classes a day, due dates were more spaced out since classes met every two or three days, leaving me with plenty of time to catch up on work and study for tests and quizzes. It admittedly was a luxury to have a schedule like this, and I got used to it very quickly. Now that I have five classes back to back for the rest of the year, I have to readjust to a heavy workload, with all my assignments due either the next day or every other day again. 

Most of my teachers have been considerate of this, only assigning quick worksheets to complete for the evening or in some cases not assigning homework at all. But other teachers seemed to have misjudged how hard it will be for their students to fall back into a normal routine. Some teachers of mine have already assigned major tests and projects due this first week back. Normally this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but once again none of the WA students have fully adjusted back to a full-time schedule or workload yet and need the time to settle into their new routines.

I feel as though there should have been a rule set in place for at least the first week of school that no major assignments be due the first week back. This may seem unrealistic, but I believe that this would’ve helped to alleviate some of the stress and create an easier transition for both students and teachers.

Additionally, I feel as though there could be more enforcement of social distancing. Students are required to wear masks and follow the arrows around the school of course, but passing periods are a completely different story. 

During breaks, the bell and flag lobbies are packed with groups of students clustered around one another, and I’ll even see some of them bring their masks down below their noses when teachers are not around. Lunch specifically is when I see the guidelines being broken the most. From what I’ve seen indoors, people maintain a safe distance, respecting the seating arrangements in the bell lobby and cafeteria, but outside the spaced-out seating is treated as a suggestion. Large groups of students will crowd around small tables in close proximity to other students eating nearby and ignore the marked-off seating, and from what I’ve seen most teachers on duty simply turn the other way.

Granted, it is preferable to have students crowding around like this outdoors rather than inside the cafeteria, and if there are a few additional students sitting at the tables outside then so be it; but I am not talking about only three or four kids sitting together, I am referring to groups of six to eight people at a time. These are the same kids that I am sitting in classes with, and it worries me that they are being this careless outside of the classroom without any repercussions from teachers. 

I understand that it is the end of the year and everyone is tired of COVID, but we cannot allow ourselves to become careless at the risk of other’s safety. I feel that in the future more of an effort should be made by teachers and staff to enforce the same guidelines outdoors as they do indoors and during class.

Overall, adjusting to the new schedule has been a positive experience and I appreciate the teachers and staff for trying their hardest to make the change as easy as possible. However, I still noticed some issues that could use some looking into and wanted to address some of the concerns I’ve had this first week back.