Parents Fume Over Kids Turning into Zoom Zombies


The Richmond Public Schools (RPS) leadership team presented initial schedule adjustments for all grade levels to its school board during a meeting Monday night. 

The board did not vote to adopt any of the proposed scheduling adjustments. 

“I think the challenge that we face as a school division is how do we come up with the best solution that provides enough structure and guardrails to make sure our kiddos don’t lose a year of learning and also acknowledges and provides for some level of flexibility for our students and families,” Dr. Tracy Epp, RPS chief academic officer told the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Under the current standard schedule, the majority of RPS students across different grade levels partake in virtual learning from around 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. featuring a mix of synchronous, live with the teacher, and asynchronous, independent or self-paced, instruction with several breaks throughout the day.  

The schedule adjustments would change a number of things.

The elementary school day is shortened, lunch for all elementary students is at the same time and whole group live instruction ends earlier at 11:50 a.m. for K-2 and 1:30 p.m. for 3-5 with individual or small group work in the afternoon. 

For middle school students at schools with four-period and six-period systems, the changes also call for shortening the day and add some dedicated asynchronous time for individualized support.

Schedule changes for high school students split four longer class periods into synchronous and asynchronous portions, allowing kids with afternoon jobs enough time to complete their school work independently.

During the school board meeting, Epp said that the adjustments were being presented to get reactions from board members and, over the course of a week or two, get feedback from parents and teachers to see if the changes would be beneficial or more disruptive. 

After numerous comments during last week’s meeting, parents and teachers, and even some students, issued more comments this week on the school day length and schedule to be read by the board. 

The public comments were mixed: some asked for changes, while others did not. 

“I am writing to support any motion put forth to decrease the number hours students are required to be with their teachers online,” wrote Hannah Abby, a parent of a kindergarten RPS student. “We are at the end of the second week and six hours a day [of online learning] for my child in kindergarten is pushing her too much. She is doing her best, but I’m afraid I’m asking too much of her to be in front of a screen for that long.”

One RPS student wrote that students are unable to focus after being on screen for so many hours in a day and that the quality of learning and participation decreases in the early afternoon because kids get burnt out.

Nicole Nelson, a teacher at the Overby-Sheppard Elementary school, took the opposite stance. 

I am not in support of shortening the school day because I believe we have a duty to teach and educate our nation’s children no matter the circumstances,” Nelson wrote. “We must consider choosing a path and putting all that we have into it because we will be successful if given the time and chance to pursue success.”

Dr. Evan Silverstein, an ophthalmologist with the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, told The Star the main issue that may arise for students is a possibility of eye strain if they don’t take adequate breaks. 

Silverstein recommends children apply the 20-20-20 rule, every 20 minutes you look at something 20-feet away for 20 seconds, not looking at other electronics during breaks and not using any devices two hours to an hour before bed.

The full presentation from the leadership team can be found here, and a recorded livestream of the school board meeting is on the RPS Facebook page.

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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]









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