Are the Limitations on School Days Helpful?

December 20, 2020

Jackson Steiner and Vy Nguyen discuss their opinions on snow days, asynchronous Mondays and more.

Limited school days are detrimental

The world is over. AP Exams? Possible failure. Dream school? A likely rejection. Mental health? Unstable. It seems that your continuity of academic success has met its end at erratic Wi-Fi, less teaching and a lack of test preparation. Some students attest that these adjustments alleviate virtual learning stressors; however, they are a detriment to students’ long-term academic performance. 

Superintendent Scott Brabrand, states that teachers may give a maximum of 60 minutes of homework weekly or 75 minutes for AP classes. While this limit is an investment in mental health, this constraint narrows the curriculum and is unfavorable for those enrolled in rigorous courses.

Despite the new optional assignments in the AP curriculum, the expectations for the AP Exams remain static, leaving students to navigate the steep slope of College Board standards. In order to obtain a college credit on the exam, they must not only regurgitate textbook facts, but they also must develop cogent arguments using the application of such facts. For instance, exams will not require a student to simply describe an event, but they will require the student to elaborate on an event’s long-term effects on an empire’s politics. 

 To make an integral study tool for the AP Exam optional means to make a student’s chances of succeeding on the exam optional. This success does not deserve to be optional; it should be necessary. 

Regardless of a family’s income, students rely on AP classes to reduce the required credits that must be earned in college, lowering college costs significantly. Through a lack of exam preparation, students risk the possibility of failing, and, therefore, losing their free credit— a severe loss for low-income households. 

In addition to lightening the workload, FCPS decided to remove Mondays. With the homework adjustment eliminating most of the out-of-class instruction, the shortened week eliminates 20 percent of in-class instruction. 

Some students find this workday conducive to virtual learning as it enables them to catch up on work, but Mondays should be applied to class instruction. With the extra day, not only will students receive additional education, but isolated students during quarantine will also value the opportunity to socialize. 

While the week should be filled with classes, FCPS should cancel classes on days of inclement weather. On a clear day, laptop users are still subject to poor connection; therefore, storms and blizzards will exacerbate those conditions. For those who live in affected areas, virtual schooling is inequitable since their connection could disappear during the school day. If a student faced this, they would miss opportunities to engage in discussions that could impact their grades. 

Although academia is limited, in the end, the academic growth of our high schoolers is the only thing being limited. The world may feel over, but that doesn’t mean our future has to feel over too.

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Limitations on school days are beneficial

The coronavirus pandemic has led schools to adapt to a virtual setting. Consequently, many limitations have been set in place by FCPS, such as a lighter workload and less in-person instruction. However, there are several positive aspects to these limitations, like more time to complete assignments and relieve stress.Limited student-teacher interaction is a noticeable difference between online and traditional school that takes place in the classroom. Less time in an environment with convenient communication to teachers and other students could negatively affect group work performance. However, students now have much more time to turn in assignments. For example, if a student is given an assignment on Friday and it is due next class, then they will have until the following Wednesday to complete it. The extra time students have to complete assignments helps reduce stress, for these unprecedented times can be mentally worrisome. 

Cartoon by Ariana Tackett.

Another limitation set as a result of a new virtual learning environment is the possibility of no more snow days. Even though snow days would offer time for students to decompress, or catch up on school work, the school curriculum has the possibility of falling behind due to snow days. Students already have lots of time off in a virtual setting. Students have Monday to catch up on assignments, as well as several holidays and teacher work days. Having no snow days allows the school to stay on pace and not fall behind in the curriculum.

Another limitation set by FCPS for virtual learning is less homework capacity. AP classes are limited to 75 minutes of homework per week, and base courses are limited to one hour of homework per week. Even though these limits leave students with less practice on a subject, there is plenty of free time for students to catch up on school work. Students have at their disposal office hours, flip flops, and email to get extra practice and help on a subject.

A lighter workload also gives students more time to contribute to a family income by working. Limited workload also allows students to focus on taking care of siblings while parents are working from home. 

The limitations that have been set to accommodate for a virtual learning environment have beneficial aspects. The greater availability of free time and a reduced stress level is just what students need to remain physically and mentally healthy during this pandemic. 

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