Story by Lilian Zhu
Photo by Oscar Walsh
SPUSD declared that distance learning will continue until the end of the semester in accordance with state reopening guidelines on Thursday, Oct. 15. Periodical asynchronous days have been implemented into the middle and high school schedules, giving teachers more prep time. SPMS has also reinstated “all days” on Mondays starting Oct. 26.
Each academic department will pick six days between now and the end of the semester to not hold any Zooms, and instead host meetings and allow for lesson planning and development. However, those six days are broken up into odd and even days, which means that students will only get three asynchronous periods per class, and will have at least one Zoom class each day. Students will still be assigned work during their asynchronous class periods.
SPUSD and the Teacher’s Association of South Pasadena (TASP) negotiated this new model as a compromise from teachers’ original push for a weekly wellness, or asynchronous, day since June. Although students, parents, and teachers have advocated for a wellness day through myriad public comments and a petition that has garnered over 900 signatures, the School Board has adamantly opposed it, believing that a wellness day would disengage students. Still, the SPHS ASB Wellness Team has asserted through a formal proposal that a wellness day actually creates a more sustainable and well-rounded education for students and teachers.
The inconsistency of the asynchronous days has worried many teachers, believing that a more uniform schedule is needed for quality connection.
“While the asynchronous plan acknowledges the challenges of online learning, the proposal is clumsy. The asynchronous days are scattered haphazardly, and teachers must plan additional activities for students to complete,” an anonymous high school AP teacher said. “Instead of reducing student workload and screen time, students complete the same amount of work, if not more. A wellness day makes more sense.”
Some teachers also noted the new model’s failure to sufficiently meet students’ mental health needs.
“I appreciate the asynchronous days as they will help me to take care of myself by having time to grade, meet with students and plan — things that I don’t have time to do in the normal work day. While this is helpful to teachers I don’t see how helpful it is for kids,” English teacher Jennifer Cutler said. “Kids still have most of the day in Zoom classes and asynchronous assignments to do during that one period so how much does it really benefit kids? A regular weekly mental wellness day is really what is needed for teachers and students.”
Students are concerned that the irregular asynchronous period plan will disrupt their learning routine, and feel Wednesday wellness days would better strengthen their education.
“With this model implemented, students will experience an awkward 80 minute break during the school day. Not only is it confusing, but it disrupts students’ rhythm, as it is not consistent each week, which can cause more time management problems among students,” Peer Mediator Liaison and senior Andrew Cheung said. “[On the] contrary, the Wellness Day is truly a much better option as it helps students by establishing a weekly routine with a mandatory homeroom and asynchronous learning plans each Wednesday.”
SPUSD will remain fully online for the rest of 2020, as the state still deems L.A. County schools unsafe to reopen.