We at ASAPP strongly oppose the decision to get rid of “asynchronous” Mondays. It will have detrimental effects on students’ mental health, physical health, and social lives, to say nothing of their academics. As members of EGHS’s mental health advocacy club (ASAPP), we are asking that you reverse the decision and allow students unstructured class time.
Back in September, members of ASAPP co-wrote this article about the student perspective on the idea of having a pandemic-era school. We wrote the article in the hopes that adults, especially in this community’s uniquely high-expectations school culture, would listen to the words and voices of their students. We knew that the state was making the unfortunate decision to send students to school during a pandemic, thanks to immense pressure from the federal government and from poorly-informed parents. We were grateful to hear that the school district took some important precautions to minimize students’ stress going into the school year.
One of the most well-received measures our school district took to minimize stress was to have “asynchronous” Monday school. It gave an unstructured atmosphere to our work that students benefited from. Similar to the early days of quarantine school, we get to choose our work hours, socialize more, and sleep in. As ASAPP’s very own Ella Saint pointed out at this panel event, radically altering one’s sleep schedule is a trauma response common in young people that allows us to feel more in control of our lives. Many students use Mondays as a night to sleep in and at least make some kind of attempt to get rest at the beginning of the week. Taking that away is not physically or mentally healthy for students.
Academically, “asynchronous” Mondays gave students an opportunity to meet one-on-one with teachers, and ask for help on subjects that we may have missed in class. After all, it is extraordinarily difficult to pay attention in class when you are taking class from home, or constantly being aware of your surroundings to stay away from other people. Taking away these tutoring sessions would make school that much more difficult for students who rely on those resources for class, and teachers who use those days to get an idea of which topics are getting through to students and which aren’t.
As students, we are entrenched in the EGHS community. Students have always preferred unstructured class time, since long before the pandemic. Before the quarantine, students used the EGHS library as a quiet and distraction-free place to do their schoolwork. A three-day weekend gives students that unstructured time to catch up on their work. And yes, also to take a break from work and sit around being lazy all day. As a reminder, we are currently living through a mass casualty event that has taken more American lives than combat in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. We started losing a 9/11’s-worth of Americans every day in mid-December, and that daily toll continued until the public vaccine rollout in February. The stress from this crisis only makes downtime to complete our overly-stressful work more important. Students have experienced a skyrocketing suicide ideation rate across this country, and East Greenwich is no exception.
And yet, a vocal and irresponsible minority of parents are petitioning the School Committee to send students into crowded classrooms full time. We know that there are no good decisions that you can make that will be unanimously approved by everyone in this town. You have had to make middle-ground decisions in the hopes that they will satisfy the most people, while remaining as close to CDC guidelines as possible. But on issues of science, there is rarely a good middle ground. There is no “middle ground” for getting your children vaccinated. There is no “middle ground” for removing asbestos and lead paint from elementary schools. If two people came up to you, one told you to eat an entire bar of soap, and the other told you not to eat the entire bar of soap, the middle ground “eating half a bar of soap” would be a poor decision to make. The trouble with standing in the middle of a busy road is that you might get hit from either side.
Sending students into a more stressful situation to do more schoolwork is not the answer to this unprecedented mental health crisis. We are students, and therefore not professionals. We don’t craft education law or policy on any level. But as students, we know our community. We know the student body, and we are more in-tune to their experiences than most people. After all, they’re our experiences too. We can’t speak for everyone, but we ask that you not make a decision that could inadvertently worsen this already tense and tragic situation.
Assorted members of ASAPP
ASAPP (Assess Support Action Proceed Prevent) is a student group at EGHS focused on mental health issues.