Editorial: the complex case for virtual Wednesdays

Tina Duoibes, Editor-In-Chief

One year ago, the prospect of any type of virtual learning was a far-fetched idea that under “normal” circumstances would never be an option for East students outside of online classes. However, the advantages to virtual Wednesday, both mental and physical, should be a sufficient reason for the district to continue the current plan for the remainder of the year. 

Today, mental health in schools is a critical topic for students who add mental health concerns to the rigorous workload and unprecedented social climate. Virtual Wednesdays provide students with a single day in their week that allows them to have more control over their environment, ideally, offering students a stress-free day. The thought of not going to school on Wednesday even relieves stress on Tuesday night that can feel like a break on its own. Not having to stress about picking out school outfits, cold morning rush to the school doors from our cars, and most importantly not having to wear a mask all day provides students and teachers with the necessary comfort.

Students and teachers are notably exhausted from the constant fear of exposure, impending self-quarantines, and ever-changing government restrictions on sports and activities. Student burnout is real for students who describe feeling “unmotivated” or “numb” to the constant uncertainty of life. Yes, virtual Wednesdays, in some classes, are “easy” in terms of workload and accountability. But, Wednesdays offer students a chance to breathe in between the week and even gives us a bit more sleep without having to worry about miscellaneous morning tasks.

Students and teachers have become accustomed to a routine for the past few months and disrupting that routine will aggressively affect students’ ability to manage workload and everyday stressors. In addition, Wednesday affords students the opportunity to learn asynchronously at their own pace in accordance with our individualized learning styles. At the same time, being at home associates many students with safety as they can feel more relaxed in their own environments.

Furthermore, Wednesdays offer one day a week where the potential for students to be exposed to COVID-19 is minimized. Physical health and mental health are equally important reasons why the administration should keep virtual Wednesdays. Since Aug., the administration has boasted about its efforts to provide students and faculty with a safe and comfortable environment for learning. However, if Virtual Wednesday eases the anxieties of students and faculty where exposure is minimized then the district should honor our remarks. 

Each teacher encompasses their own teaching style and their own way to teach on virtual Wednesday. Wednesdays have become a day for asynchronous work hours, Google Form assignments that are turned in for a grade and attendance every hour, a time for questions or one-on-one guidance, test/quiz taking, and a day where in-person students and full-virtual students are united on one platform. All-in-all, teachers have been a constant in students’ lives and are doing their best to provide every student with equal opportunities to learn both virtual and in-person. Virtual Wednesdays are not just for students, they are for teachers too.

Already, it is notably difficult for full-virtual students to feel connected to their classmates throughout the day as many describe feeling “alienated” and “forgotten” while on Zoom. Teachers fill in gaps everyday incorporating and blending their teaching to fit the needs and requirements for full-virtual and in-person students. However, going back and forth between Zoom each hour, wiping down desks, and preparing for another class is not an effortless system to maneuver for a teacher for hours in a row. 

Before Holiday break the administration sent out a survey for the student body and district teachers on the topic of virtual Wednesdays and responses to the Return to Learning Plan. The survey conveyed that 69 percent of virtual respondents said that virtual Wednesdays were “important” and “very important.” In addition, 61 percent of in-person respondents said that virtual Wednesdays were also “important” and “very important.” Although the survey was not clear on what defines “very important” compared to “not important,” a majority of all students, both virtual and in-person, with teachers, prefer to keep virtual Wednesday. 

The administration has been clear on their motives to return students to fully-in person learning but at what cost? Students and teachers should have a say in what happens to them and feel represented in decisions that involve them and their health. Right now, the administration is going against what the majority of students and teacher respondents conveyed in the survey that the administration distributed. This has been a difficult year to be a student, teacher, and administrator. But, acknowledging a common goal to do everything necessary to keep students and teachers safe while returning school to as close to normal as possible must be everyones’ number one priority.