Athens Drive virtual learning schedule adjusts, provides students, teachers with break from screen time


Photos by Abby Pikett

The current Athens Drive virtual learning schedule, including the screen break time on Wednesday.

Abby Pikett, Editor-in-Chief

The 2020-2021 school year is unlike any other Athens Drive Magnet High School has experienced before. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led school boards across the nation to debate what kind of learning would be safest for students and their families, while still providing a decent education for American children. After the Wake County Public School Board announced that all public schools would begin the school year remotely, Athens Drive promptly built an online schedule for every student to follow starting August 17. This new schedule for online learning has led many students and parents to question how much screen time is too much, even if it is for school.

For the first week of school, Athens Drive ran on a schedule of four classes, composed of 35 minutes of teaching and 25 minutes of small group time, with 10 minute breaks in between. Most students responded positively to this new schedule because classes were shorter than the beginning of last year and the school day was over by 11:35 a.m.  

Although students enjoyed this schedule because it meant they only had to go to school half the day, all week long, it did not seem to provide enough time for students to engage and learn enough to support the curriculum. Students could not possibly learn a substantial amount of course information in only 35 minutes of teaching. The only benefit of this schedule was that it allowed students and teachers to be introduced to virtual learning without being overwhelmed by computer time.

For the second week of school, Athens Drive ran on a different schedule. This schedule included four classes, but 30 minutes of “student hours” for each class were added in order for students to get extra help from their teachers if needed. Student hours for first period started at 7:25 a.m. and first period officially started at 8am. After first period, there was a 45 minute break before second period, and after second period there was a 10 minute break before third period. There was an hour-long lunch after third period, and fourth period was the last class of the day, with each period lasting an hour. 

This second schedule seemed more like the standard school week and allowed more teaching and learning to be done, while students still got breaks from the screen and had shorter classes than they would have had if classes were in-person. This seemed like an option the school would stick with, except it left many students and teachers feeling drained from screen time. 

Another issue with this schedule was that while students tuned in to their virtual classes for four hours a day, many of them still had to do homework on the computer after their classes were done for the day. Four hours of online class plus at least an extra 30 minutes of homework for each class after school would amount to an unhealthy dose of screen time for students. 

Principal Stephen Mares announced Friday Sept. 4 that a new schedule would be used starting Tuesday Sept. 8. This schedule would be the same as the one used in the second and third weeks of school, except for one difference: there would be no virtual class on Wednesdays. Instead, teachers would remain online for student hours in case students needed to ask questions about assignments or receive extra help. 

This gap in the week would allow students to have a break from screen time, as well as give students and teachers time to catch up on work and complete assignments. This new schedule seems like the best option for students and teachers because it allows everyone a break from the computer and a chance to get work done during the week. 

Although students of all ages are still adapting to the virtual environment of online class, it seems as if Athens Drive has put a lot of thought and effort into creating the best schedule for students and teachers. In order for students and teachers to maintain the normal school environment, it can be helpful to engage in discussions and stay social, while still remaining safe from the coronavirus.