WHHS seeks balance with weekly class time limit

Under the current virtual schedule, WHHS teachers are advised to keep class and homework time to 240 minutes per week.

The current remote learning bell schedule with Wednesdays as flex days during a five day week.

Courtesy of WHHS

The current remote learning bell schedule with Wednesdays as flex days during a five day week.

Schoology’s overdue tab is overflowing with missing assignments, a phone buzzes, “Powerschool: Math Test: 40%”, homework due at 11:59, study for a quiz tomorrow, finals are next week. This sounds familiar to many WHHS students during a normal school year. With remote learning and the loss of much social interaction, administration wanted to do something to make students’ workloads more manageable. 

“It’s extremely tiring to sit at a screen from 8-3 and then sit there again all night,” SENIOR Caelan McFadden-Grubenhoff said.

“My mental health has gotten severely worse over the course of this year and school is becoming harder and harder,” Emma Martesen, ‘25, said. 

 During the first week of the 2020-2021 school year, WHHS teachers and families were informed of the 240-minute limit that was created for students to spend per class each week. It was strongly suggested by the administration that teachers follow.

The suggested time limit includes two 90 minute blocks per week leaving students with 60 minutes of out-of-class learning. If a class requires attendance during the 30-minute block on Wednesdays, students are left with 30 minutes of out-of-class work. 

Teachers and staff members were made aware of the 240 minute limit during the WHHS School Reopening Plan on Aug. 17 and it was reiterated throughout the first semester. The original remote bell schedule was also shared during this meeting. 

Parents and students received this information through the Eagle Flyer sent out on Aug. 21 and during the virtual orientations on Aug. 24-26. Some teachers also reminded students of the time limit periodically throughout the semester or gave them an estimate of how long assignments should take to stay within the allotted time. 

I used to be on top of all my to-dos and now I can hardly ever find the motivation to do these busywork assignments. My mental health has deteriorated. I am never able to see my friends. I feel like going crazy all the time

— SENIOR Tristan Hand

According to a survey conducted by the Chatterbox in January of 2021, 29 out of 99 students were not aware of the suggested 240-minute limit prior to taking the survey. 

The summer before the 2020-2021 school year, the Future of Schools Instructional Committee, consisting of WHHS principles and teachers, met to create the time limit and specifically discussed the amount of time it takes for students to complete assignments.

“We really ask the teachers to be realistic about how long it takes a student to complete the assignment. Not just [how long it takes] the teacher,” Junior High Assistant Principal Jessica Smithson said.  

The time limit was originally created to avoid overwhelming students with hours of school work during weekends or after school as it is already a stressful time for many due to the pandemic. Some students are also taking care of younger siblings, working or have other out-of-school obligations so the committee decided 240 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to get context and learn the material without overdoing it.

“I think the 240-minute limit is a good amount of time to look over your notes and finish any other homework you have left, without stressing out too much after online class,” Macy Brown, ‘24, said. 

If a teacher does choose to require the 30-minute block on Wednesdays they must include that time in the total 240 minutes students can spend on a class. Teachers may only use the 30-minute block which corresponds to the bell students meet them in. However, some students report confusion surrounding the Wednesday schedule.

“I wish we weren’t required to go on Wednesdays, and that they were all optional. Sometimes I have overlapping classes and I have to choose which class I think is more important at that time.” Madeline Buehler, ‘22, said.

Most of the students surveyed have one or two teachers who require attending Wednesday classes each week. The rest of their teachers use it as an optional help time. Surveyed students typically attend one or two Google Meets that are either required or optional on Wednesdays, however, 51 of the 99 do not attend any classes. 

107 responses from WHHS students and staff in a survey conducted by the Chatterbox. (Kimaya Mundhe)
107 responses from WHHS students and staff in a survey conducted by the Chatterbox. (Kimaya Mundhe)

Smitson received concerns from some parents regarding the way students spend their time on Wednesdays. Even if they attend all their classes in the morning, there is still a two and a half-hour period in the school day where there aren’t any classes to attend. During this “self-directed learning” students are expected to treat it like a study hall and complete homework for their classes. 

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from parents, that kids aren’t going Wednesdays, aren’t stopping into classes, aren’t asking for help… I know some students don’t use that time, it just kind of seems like a free day, but it’s really not, that’s not the purpose of it. It’s to do that self-directed study and hopefully, they’re using that time” said Smitson. 

The majority of surveyed students agree with how Wednesdays are currently being used, but some feel Wednesdays should be optional for all classes. 

“I agree that Wednesdays should remain optional but I think many teachers don’t realize that if they make Wednesdays mandatory then they may only give students 30 minutes of homework,” said Tejas Mundhe, ‘25. 

Others feel Wednesdays serve as a good break from a usually stressful week. “I love my Wednesdays since they give me a chance to catch up and relax,” Terra Nelson, ‘26, said.

Across the board, there are certain classes that students report spend longer than 240 minutes in. The two biggest culprits in exceeding the suggested time limit are math and science classes. 52 of the 99 students reported spending longer than 240 minutes a week in math and 19 reported spending more time in science. 

Smitson anticipated these results because these subjects force students to use a different part of the brain that many aren’t as familiar with. She believes that understanding the concepts requires the student to be able to pull information from years prior which can be challenging. 

Teachers are aware of this and realize sometimes assignments or topics will take longer for some students to grasp than others but they are trying their best to provide help and class time to get work done. 

“I’m horrible at determining how long a task will take a student to do outside of class. So I couldn’t count it up. When we have big assignments, I dedicate time within the blocks for students to work,” English teacher Francesca Bownas-Rayburn said.

Remote learning is new and challenging for everyone, students and teachers alike. Smitson suggests that students who need help or feel that they are spending more than 240 minutes a week in a certain class reach out to their teacher first. 

“I think the teachers are doing a great job at what they’re doing and I think the kids are doing a great job. If they need anything, please reach out to us…we’re here to help you,” Smitson said.