High School students voice concerns about workload, taxing schedule

Jan 7, 2021

Two Wareham High School students, speaking on behalf of a larger portion of the student body, informed members of the School Committee that students feel overwhelmed by their coursework and are struggling with the demanding fully remote Wednesday schedule. 

Speaking at the committee’s Jan. 7 meeting, Sophomore Class President Indiana Troupe and the committee’s Student Representative Emily Roberge voiced concerns they said they’ve been hearing from an increasing number of their peers.

“I have received more complaints about the workload that kids have than anything else I’ve ever gotten before,” Troupe said. “I can attest to this as well. I’ve found that this year’s workload is particularly hard to keep up with in comparison to past years.” 

He said the problem was not that there was more work, but that there was less class time to complete work. With less class time, Troupe said students receive less instruction from teachers, leading to confusion. Ultimately, Troupe said the result was students “not learning as much as they typically would.”

Troupe said prior to the meeting he had confirmed that 27 students agreed to the following statement: 

“The amount of work we are receiving under the circumstances of the current world we’re living in has negatively impacted my mental health or has made me feel unusually depressed, sad, anxious, stressed, angry, upset or otherwise negatively feeling.” 

To address the overwhelming workload, Troupe said many of his peers showed interest in having a study period. He mentioned that other districts such as Falmouth, Bourne and ORR offer their students study time. 

Roberge focused her comments on the toll of High School students’ fully remote Wednesday schedule.

“Something needs to change for Wednesday,” she said, “because having eight Zoom calls in a row for about 30, 35 minutes each — it’s really tough to have to do that for almost seven hours for one day.”

Troupe also addressed the Wednesday schedule, saying that both teachers and students had struggled with Wednesdays. He said it was “time to consider some alternative options” to ease frustrations. 

Troupe said many students have advocated for the taxing Wednesday schedule to become a fully asynchronous day, meaning students would not be required to attend a series of real-time Zoom calls with their teachers. Instead, students would work through assignments for each class independently and at their own pace.

Roberge pointed out that on Wednesdays in Middleborough High School, the students are divided into two cohorts that switch off for in-person learning every other Wednesday. 

“That could be transformed into a day that’s like any other day, like Monday, Tuesday or Thursday or Friday.”

Troupe took the time to note that he was not attempting to “bash” anyone but was merely bringing the concerns to committee members’ attention. Similarly, Roberge pointed out that the covid restrictions have been hard on staff, as well as students. 

“Our wonderful staff, they went to school specifically in this field to teach kids,” she said. “They want to see us face-to-face, … and they’re missing out on that too. They miss it as much as we do.” 

School Committee members and Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino responded carefully to the students’ concerns. Several members thanked Troupe and Roberge for speaking up on behalf of their peers.

Committee members Joyce Bacchiocchi and Kevin Brogioli encouraged Troupe and Roberge to engage in problem-solving conversations with administrators at the high school. Troupe said he’d be happy to brainstorm solutions. 

“I’m usually one to be a big fan of rigor,” said Michael Flaherty, vice chair of the committee. But, he said, “I hope we can do something” to address the issues brought up. 

Bacchiocchi said she sympathized with students’ concerns but noted that students won’t get another chance at high school, and the district is responsible for getting them the best education possible.

“I totally understand, but what’s the point when they’re all telling you that they’re not learning anything?” Flaherty said in response. “Being overwhelmed, so what they’re being taught, they’re not absorbing. They can’t.”

During his public comment, Troupe also mentioned that many students and parents are concerned about the growing number of covid-19 cases in town. He pointed out that other schools in the region have transitioned to fully remote learning for two weeks. 

“While I know some students and parents would be disappointed by a shutdown, there would also be a large number of students who would feel the opposite way and parents who would be relieved,” Troupe said.