Virginia: Allow a Weekly Virtual Catch-Up Day!
Virginia: Allow a Weekly Virtual Catch-Up Day!
Virginia Department of Education: Allow School Districts to Implement a Weekly Virtual Asynchronous Catch-Up Day!
I and many other citizens of Virginia are very concerned about the current rise of Covid-19 cases in our state. According to the CDC, we are experiencing the highest level of community transmission of the virus. Many members of my school community, York County, have fallen ill. A considerable number of my friends have been told to quarantine because they were exposed in a classroom environment and some have caught the virus. Besides the anxiety that is occurring because of the virus, many were woefully unprepared to jump right back into a 7 hour, 5 day a week schedule that many haven't done since the beginning of 2020. For most, this is at least a grade level and a half of a lack of a full, 5 day a week schedule. This has led to severe anxiety and stress that is a detriment to the entire community. I believe that implementing one day a week as an asynchronous, online day meant to catch up on work and seek help from teachers for the foreseeable future this year would solve most of these problems.
Unfortunately, there is no way to social distance in the slightest at school. Students are packed just as tight in the hallways as they were before Covid even existed, and classes are not distanced either, even though teachers, to their credit, have been trying their best. And, because of the lack of an asynchronous Wednesday, there is no time for our dutiful school janitorial staff to deep clean and sanitize to limit the spread of the virus. According to the CDC, there is more than a minor risk of infection due to an infected surface for UP TO THREE DAYS after the virus infected that surface. There is no time to deep clean the entire school with a full schedule, leaving to a considerable risk of infection.
Also, for most of Virginia, we have not been in-person at school for a full 5 day week since March of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Lack of sleep is becoming an issue, a serious problem to occur in the middle of a pandemic that tends to target those who are not receiving an optimal amount of rest. Many are facing increased stress due these conditions. No one was prepared to jump right back into a full 5 day in person week. Some people I know are so stressed due to the academic conditions, their parents are considering pulling them out of the school division all together and signing them up for an online school option. While Virtual Virginia classes were a potential option to fix this problem, the sign up process was not optimized to be accessible to those who were unsure about returning to school or not, because registration closed off so early.
Many teachers also believe that offering one virtual asynchronous day as a time to catch up with work and seek help with concepts and assignments would be beneficial to all those in the state.
My school district, and many across the state, are also facing an extreme bus driver shortage. It takes hours for some kids to get to and from school! This shortage has affected me personally. My cross country team was unable to procure a bus to drive us to one of our meets, severely complicating our transportation plan. With an asynchronous virtual day, we could alleviate many of these issues. Kids would no longer need to be driven by bus to school on these days, alleviating some of the stress on this situation. It would also open up a time for athletes to have sporting events to occur that would not interfere with school hours. Also, if sporting events were planned to occur on Wednesdays, then it would be relatively easy for bus transportation to be planned out. This is because no students would have to be transported home by bus on these days.
The policy of the state right now is to restrict the ability of school districts to implement these virtual days by forcing them to extend their school days or year if they do. I believe that allowing school divisions to implement one virtual asynchronous day a week and counting the time spend during these days as instructional hours would be a good idea. In my opinion, a virtual asynchronous day spent strengthening the understanding a student has of concepts being taught is just as beneficial as a day spent in person learning new material, and many people agree with this idea. According to recent research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, school districts that adopt a 4-Day week save money. Students in those districts also spent more time on jobs, hobbies, school activities, sports, homework, and chores. Students in these localities also report feeling much less exhausted, and truancy and food insecurity rates did not seem to increase.
Considering these circumstances, myself and many others believe that continuing the asynchronous Wednesdays schedule from last year would be optimal. For one, having these virtual and asynchronous days would reduce the amount of people packed in hallways and classrooms. It would also give students a time to rest and catch up on work, and also provide a built in time to connect with teachers to review topics they need a little extra help on. Dear Virginia Department of Education, please consider implementing one virtual asynchronous day a week!