With the ongoing pandemic and almost a full year of Coronavirus cases continuing to spike, most of life whether that be one’s career, family, education, or happiness remains computer based. Other than the front-line workers, people who’ve tested positive, or known someone to test positive, many acknowledge the insane struggle to be a student during a time where you have to raise your hand through a Google Meet or Zoom feature. Wake County Public School students specifically feel the strain more than ever with new courses, a new bell schedule, and the tragic, heavily discussed loss of Wellness Wednesdays.
To provide some context on why students feel so attached to Wellness Wednesdays you must understand the timeline of being an online WCPSS student currently. During the first official semester of online, Wake County students universally found it difficult to stay engaged and punctual with due dates appearing less pressing, which in turn left many feeling a large disconnect from the classroom. Fortunately, Wake County identified the noticeable academic decline and implanted a schedule change with aspirations that this would help students and thus, asynchronous or “Wellness” Wednesdays were established into the schedule only weeks into the fall 2020 semester. These days, wedged in the middle of the school week, became commonplace for students to work more independently to complete their piling assignments, speak more privately with teachers regarding questions or any confusion they may have, and ultimately improve their grades.
Now without this aid to boost one’s grades, many feel more stressed than ever. The number of signatures alone displays the uproar of unhappy students with a towering total of 4,530 students and counting that have already signed this change.org petition started by Apex High senior Felix Wood addressed to the Wake County Board of Education that was created on Tuesday January 26th.
Speaking on behalf of the the Wake County students, Mr. Wood supported his petition to bring back Wellness Wednesdays by stating (and likely in all caps for emphasis):
Many Green Hope students have put aside their rivalry or disdain towards the Apex cougars to show their support and join the movement for the greater good in gaining back their coveted Wellness Wednesdays.
Green Hope junior Parker Maiorano reasoned why she signed in agreement with Wood as she said, “I need Wednesdays off to catch up.” Her message, garnering a multitude of likes caught the eye of many which inevitably, only fueled more comments. Along the same note of “catching up” Maggie Ralston, another junior from GH justified her signing as she said, “Online school can be overwhelming with work and this helps everyone catch up.”
One user left anonymous stated their reason for signing with a simple but relatable one liner, “wellbeing.”
Others, namely Joscilyn Tillotson of Athens Drive, wrote of why she wants not only her non-live time back as a student, but also for teachers to gain back their time as she reported, “Asynchronous days help me to keep my life together! Having them back in our schedule would be a huge benefit for both teachers and students.” Lauren Summerville of Green Hope’s class of 2022 also thoughtfully wrote in support of the movement as she said, “Our school schedule has already completely changed, at least keep our Wednesdays so we can catch up on work and have at least one day to not be on a computer from 7:25 to 2:18! Many students including myself have jobs outside of school and most of the time our only time to work is over the weekend. Having a day in the week that isn’t completely consumed by school/work has been extremely helpful, please don’t take it away!” Her comment received lots of positive responses from students, mainly upperclassmen, as she addressed the struggle to manage having a job or a time consuming extracurricular on top of the trickiness that is online school.
But another issue commonly addressed was the plummeting mental health of students (high schoolers mainly) that was somewhat helped with Wellness Wednesdays.
Cara Mack, of the class of 2023 from Wake Forest High School, who’s now only spent one full semester of high school in person, hinted at the mental-health benefits as she said, “They’ve [asynchronous days] really helped my mental health throughout the week.” Others trekked off of her point to suggest how draining school can feel with screen-time hours accumulating. Azah Mansour of Sanderson encapsulated this focus on mental health as she simply put, “My mental health depends on it.” Cameron Blum didn’t even write up a full sentence to still receive more than a few likes with his statement, “I need a break man.” Athens Drive HS student Christy Dickerson noted how helpful the independent work study day was for entire families. She said, “My 3 siblings and I use this day as a self care and make up day for all of our needs and missing assignments. This day allows me and my mom, who is an essential worker, to also have doctor appointments when we don’t have time during school to do so. With all that’s going on with COVID it’s important to now more than ever take care of ourselves. I’m sure everyone else agrees for those who care. Thank you.” This phrase “self care” was not an anomaly scrolling through the comments and was found in a plethora of messages representing a majority of students who noted how school currently isn’t a priority with the pandemic and that safety and health, whether that be mental or emotional are (and should be) the chief concern of students.
Within the comments there’s an apparent trend of the term “need” in reference to “needing” these Wednesdays that really demonstrates how affected and infuriated students are no matter what school they attend or what grade level they’re in or even what type of student they are. Wake County students together, are tired and in “need” of these non-live days.
WCPSS student Campbell Law elucidated that this movement isn’t just to request “a day off” or one day to sleep in and not work on assignments but rather a time for students to complete work and for teachers a designated time to grade and lesson plan, and for all to reset and mentally prepare for the rest of the school week.
Many students plea for the return of Wellness Wednesdays into their every week. Regardless of the outcome granted by the School Board or if it’ll catch any more attention, there’s a conspicuous unity among students feeling the pain of online school whether that be the struggle of balancing other aspects of their life (social, work, or sports related) or maintaining their mental health or even trying to receive better grades.