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CPS students petition to shorten the class day copy pd 5

CPS students petition to shorten the class day — and end homework — during remote learning, citing headaches, stress and too much screen time

Chicago Tribune


Oct 14, 2020


5:00 AM

After a month of remote learning, Idalia Rizvic was getting headaches, feeling stressed and struggling to finish her schoolwork early enough to hang out with her family before bedtime.

So last week, the eighth grader at Boone Elementary in West Rogers Park started an online petition to shorten the virtual school day.

“Covid has been a stressful time for all, and online school adds onto that,” Idalia wrote. “We still get the same amount of work, and ‘homework’ has lost its purpose."

After spring’s abrupt transition to remote learning, many students indicated they wanted more live instruction and engagement. But for some, stricter schedules this year have been too much. As families and educators wait for Chicago Public Schools to say whether the second quarter will bring students back to classrooms, many feel that either way, something needs to change. Like Idalia, others are turning to online petitions in hopes of influencing the decision makers.

Idalia’s mother, Senada Rizvic, said the past month has been “too much screen time, less sleep, more headache."

During the school day, Idalia said she’s typically glued to her computer from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., often late into the evening to finish homework. Like many of her classmates, she feels more comfortable with her camera off. While some un-mute themselves to speak during class, most just use the chat, she said.

“Online school has made my anxiety go up a lot,” Idalia said. “... This time has been really difficult on a lot of my peers' mental health.”

Some teachers have been supportive of the petition, even signing it, while others have told Idalia how many things have to change before her suggestion could be possible, she said.

A Suder Montessori teacher wrote on the petition, “We can’t imagine how it feels to be a middle schooler in this time, so the least we can do is amplify their voice."

Some students described how screen time was affecting them. Another simply wrote, “Help me."

A petition started by a Senn High School student seeking a half-day class schedule cited research on the effects of too much screen time. If students must have seven-hour remote learning days, the petition states, they shouldn’t be assigned homework.

“I, as well as many other students I’ve talked to have already been getting headaches, sore necks and backs, and strained eyes every single day,” the student wrote. "Mentally, we feel exhausted, unmotivated, and isolated.”

Another, anonymous petition to shorten the day states, “With COVID-19 cases still rising it’s clear that it’s much safer to stay home, but 8 hours of staring at the screen is not mentally and physically healthy for students.”

But not all families are on the same page in that regard. Another anonymous group, “Parents for In-Person Learning,” is petitioning CPS and city officials to reopen schools entirely.

A parent to two Mozart Elementary students, Gabrielle Wilson, started a different petition by declaring remote learning so far “a disaster.”

“The expectations from the district put upon students and the working parents of this city are unrealistic,” Wilson wrote. "... We cannot forgo our sources of income to be tethered to our young and diverse learner’s Chromebooks.”

She proposed that all live classes take place in the morning, so parents have more flexibility to help their children with other schoolwork. Wilson also spoke at the September Board of Education meeting, and days later withdrew her children from CPS. One child was crying at least once most days, and the other would hide under a desk. They had different lunch times, which was difficult to manage.

“I decided I couldn’t continue with the way things were,” Wilson said. “My kids usually love school, and they were having meltdowns every day.”

Now, she’s homeschooling them. They start around 9 a.m., finish by noon and go on field trips or play outside. To make it work, she ordered more books and moved their school days to Tuesday through Saturday, because she has graduate classes all day Monday. They have been following the same math curriculum, and she added some science activities. “I cut the time in half and we get more done,” she said.

Wilson said her kids' teachers seemed understanding, and the school let her know that she could re-enroll if in-person classes resume. If it’s an option, she said she’d likely send them back.

“I think the social benefits that the children get from being in school outweigh the risks of them contracting COVID,” Wilson said.

Scheduling has been an ongoing issue.

While the Chicago Teachers Union contract gives teachers a vote on the adoption of class schedules, CTU chief of staff Jennifer Johnson said the model schedules approved this year were developed for in-person learning.

In light of the shift to remote learning, CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade tweeted that “if schools want to re-vote and the union agrees and won’t file a grievance because this violates the (collective bargaining agreement), we are all set.”

But Johnson said union leaders support schools making changes if staff and families broadly agree on new schedules. The union didn’t formally agree to new votes because they want sample schedules designed for remote learning, with less screen time and more time for professional development, helping families, planning and collaboration, Johnson said.

DMU Timestamp: October 08, 2020 22:04

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