Students and teachers rally together in support of wellness day

Story by Sam Grotenstein
Staff Writer

Photo by Ella Jayasekera
Photo Editor

Teachers, parents, and students voiced their support for a wellness day to be incorporated into the distance learning schedule at a School Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23. 

The purpose of the meeting was for School Board members to discuss, but not vote on, whether to maintain the current online instructional model. Students advocated for a wellness day because they have experienced major stress and fatigue from an overbearing amount of synchronous learning hours on Zoom. 

“I cannot express how much I, among many, need a mental health and wellness day,” sophomore Ellie Yamamda said. “My mental health has deteriorated during isolation, and no matter how hard I try, I feel overwhelmed to the point where it is extremely hard to actually complete my work.”

Students complained not just about the mental strain of the current online schedule, but also of the physical consequences of sitting in front of a computer all day.

“At the end of the day, my eyes are sore, I have a headache, and I am unable to focus on anything,” senior and ASB Peer Mediators Liaison Andrew Cheung said. “The amount of online work has also affected my sleep schedule, making it even harder to do work.”

Teachers also advocated for a wellness day, having seen the toll that online school has taken on their students.

“As a teacher of freshman English, Honors World History, and AP U.S. History, I see students that have thrived in previous years struggling to get work done,” SPHS teacher Oliver Valcorza said. “Not because they are poor students, but because they are unmotivated from spending all day in front of a computer.”

In the summer, the Teacher’s Association of South Pasadena proposed an instructional model that included a wellness day, but the School Board voted down that schedule. Most of the public comments this time around did not center around a specific time frame for a wellness day but rather just urged the board members to further engage the community to develop the idea. Many teachers argued that a wellness day is necessary for crafting lessons and improving online materials.

“Having a wellness day would give teachers time to prepare their curriculum, as well as grade assignments,” SPHS teacher Chris Dow said. “A four day week would give both students and teachers the time they need to work effectively while still using the wellness day to engage with on-campus activities.”

Even though many parents, students, and faculty supported the idea of implementing a wellness day, School Board member Ruby Kalra noted that there were also community members who expressed their concern and opposition to the idea.

“I received a few emails just coming into this meeting [saying], ‘wait a minute, wait a minute. I just heard there were a lot of comments [supporting the wellness day] and I want to express this [opposing] side,’” Kalra said. “So I just want to put it out there that there are a multitude of comments… and if we land sometimes away from where you land, it doesn’t mean you’re not being heard.” 

School Board members will vote on whether to keep the same distance learning schedule or modify it, which could include incorporating a wellness day, at their next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

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