New remote Wednesdays fall short


Kingswood Oxford has been making change after change to the 2020-2021 school year schedule, more specifically the schedule for Wednesdays. At the beginning of the year, students were asked to attend school in person on Wednesdays. In December, Wednesdays were used as a time for asynchronous meetings and workdays. Now, after only two of these asynchronous workdays, KO students are to attend classes remotely on Wednesdays instead.

More than anything, the KO News editorial staff is confused. After a survey was sent out to families and students, Head of the Upper School Dan Gleason, along with a board of other faculty members, decided to make this new change. But what was the breakdown of results? Who exactly wanted this change? Who is this new change actually benefiting? We urge this board to officially address the purpose of these changes, set specific parameters on what work is acceptable and who is allowed to assign it, and most importantly, take student feedback seriously. We understand that our families are the ones paying for our education, but we are the ones in school all day during a pandemic; if there was any time to take students seriously, it’s now.

The KO News acknowledges and appreciates all of the hard work done by the board of educators who have decided what to do with this year’s schedule, but notes that there are some significant flaws in each of the ideas. 

In-person Wednesdays are the best-case scenario according to the KO News. If COVID-19 prevents in-person learning on Wednesday, what is the point in having students come in at all during the other four days a week? How does one day off limit the spread of COVID-19? Students see each other four other days a week. How much difference will one day really make? 

Asynchronous Wednesdays were nice in theory but poorly executed. Students in certain classes would have hours and hours of work to do, while other students would have none and instead get a free day off once a week. Certain people felt like they were teaching themselves material that should have been taught by a teacher had there been in-person classes. Secondly, office hours from teachers tended to be at the same time every day; the potential was there for a student to have four review sessions in a single hour. Had this been spread out like a midterm schedule based on either subject or class period (i.e. math from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., language from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., English from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., and so on), students would be able to maximize their time at home so they could pick and choose which classes they needed review for and not be forced to go to one over the others or leave one early to attend another.

This new Wednesday schedule, however, is potentially the worst schedule idea out of them all. It seems to satisfy no one — taking what was supposed to be a happy medium for both sides of the spectrum but instead taking the worst parts of each schedule. Classes now only have 10 minutes in between; we’ve gone from the original 30 from the Spring 2020 schedule to the 15 from the remote weeks, to now 10 minutes. Wasn’t the point of the long breaks to prevent Zoom fatigue? Now, with only 10 minutes in between, students barely have enough time to go get a glass of water before their next class, let alone take a screen-free break to prevent the harsh reality of sitting at a computer all day. There is a forty-minute break intended for what must be lunch at 10:40 a.m., but that is the only long break during the entire school day. Even that break is then designated for advisee group check-ins, and teachers will likely want to use that break to meet with students due to the class lengths being shortened yet again.

Now more than ever, students crave and need consistency. This is an incredibly rough time to be a high school student, especially at a private institution like Kingswood Oxford. We are expected to sit in four classes a day for 75 minutes each, and then go home to do hours of homework, sleep, and then repeat again the next day – all during the worst wave of the pandemic we have ever experienced. On top of this, our schedule is changing on what feels like a weekly basis, and in reality, isn’t too far off. The lack of structure while dealing with all of these underlying struggles is nearly impossible for any student to handle. The second we get used to a new schedule, the floor falls out from beneath us, and we are forced to face whichever new trend the administration wants to try. However, these actions often feel performative; it is as if the school is trying to defend their way out of only creating changes because specific parents request a change. In reality, these changes make everything impossibly harder for the people who actually have to deal with them. 

If they really wanted to listen to students on this new issue, why didn’t they send out a proof of the new schedule idea before making it official? The day that it was announced, a new wave of the already imminent anxieties/depression of KO students appeared, as we realized that we’d have to change what we had just gotten used to. The act of listening to students feels just like that — an act — when students aren’t involved in the entire process. Had the time been taken to ask students how they felt about this so-called “happy medium” it would not have gone over well. It doesn’t appear that a single student approves of this new plan, and some faculty members agree with this sentiment. It’s a step in the right direction, but\ it fell through the cracks when the people you were trying, or at least pretending to try, end up unhappier than before. 

There’s no scenario that will make everyone happy, but this new schedule looks like it falls short of its initial intentions. Each time the schedule changes, teachers and students need to reevaluate what their week looks like, which is not ideal for thesis teachers or AP teachers in particular. Students now could have either two or three meeting times per class, meaning that, without fail, one class section will always be ahead of others. 

The editorial board admits that it is nearly impossible to please everyone, but this cannot be the final answer. A solution to this? Talk to the students. Have a town-hall type meeting and listen to what the students, and the families, actually have to say. A survey is a great starting point, but decisions cannot be made off of a single survey. We appreciate the school’s willingness to listen and hope that they will take that one step further into making this already difficult year a little bit more bearable.