Wednesday School FAQ

On+Jan.+15%2C+Lofstrand+sent+out+an+email+discussing+the+contents+of+the+new%2C+discussed+plan%2C+taking+into+account+the+student+and+parent+perspectives+at+the+SLT+meeting.

On Jan. 15, Lofstrand sent out an email discussing the contents of the new, discussed plan, taking into account the student and parent perspectives at the SLT meeting.

At a December school board meeting, it was announced that Wellness Wednesday, a day off from synchronous instruction, would be altered to a half day of instruction. Learning this, DHS Principal Rochelle Lofstrand scrambled to apply this plan at the high school. She initially planned for 30-minute synchronous time for all periods on Wednesday mornings. 

When students gained word of the plan, Lofstrand received an “overwhelming response” against it, including a petition signed by over 2,000 students, hundreds of emails and, later, a presentation at an School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting, which can be read about here

Sophomore Sam Varkey created the petition. “It started with me in the morning, thinking, ‘this decision is kind of stupid, they’re not making it the voice of the students’, so I created the petition,” Varkey said.

Many other students were against the new plan due to worries of increased stress and burnout, so they took other actions such as emailing members of the administration. Read more about the mass emails here.

“I protested because they made it seem like there would be a lot more required work for everyone, and not everyone needs a ton of math work if they’re failing science, or vice versa,” Varkey said.

In a virtual setting, Lofstrand notices challenges: more classes skipped, more tests missed and more students falling behind academically. 

“If you didn’t like your third period class [when] you’re here at school, you would still go to your third period class, otherwise it’s skipping. It’s much easier to disengage virtually.”

Data from the CSD Board of Education this year confirms these challenges: at the 18 week mark there were 1.7 times more students with a failing grade than last year at the same time.

With a stark increase in failures and absences, Lofstrand was acutely aware of the need to adapt. Varkey agrees that the original Wellness Wednesday schedule was problematic. 

“A lot of the students who actually needed that day for academic work and school work weren’t actually using it for that,” he said. According to Varkey, it is difficult to be self-directed, “especially in a virtual environment when you don’t have a teacher helping you and watching you.”

Lofstrand hoped to structure Wednesday to “secure space for students to have some face time with teachers,” she said.

At the same time, she wanted the day to be flexible to take into account student’s needs. According to Lofstrand, while having “academic structure” to support students is valuable, so is “allowing some time for students to take care of their social, emotional needs.” 

Bearing in mind student feedback, this morphed into a plan named “Wednesday School,” which Lofstrand says mirrors “Saturday School” provided in past years. 

Lofstrand wanted to ensure students’ support of the plan when she finished it. She shared a document of the plan with the Student Government Association (SGA) representatives who presented at the SLT meeting: Sam Varkey, Aly Yamamoto and Julian Fortuna.

“I asked them to… give me feedback on [the plan], and they were all very much in favor of it. I know that they speak for a small group, but I think they heard the voices of many students, so I felt very comfortable listening to their feedback,” Lofstrand said.

One of the ways Varkey and SGA made sure the students’ opinions were being heard was through the RSVP program, an SGA task force created to communicate directly with the student body to learn about the challenges and wants of students.

Varkey thought that, while speaking at the board meetings had an impact, the SLT meetings were the most effective strategy that he and the other students used.

“It’s composed of a couple of parents, teachers and the principal, so by meeting with them, I was actually able to get more and more administrators on my side,” Varkey said. “When they got on my side, they were able to communicate with Dr. Dude.”

To make the plan a reality, Lofstrand presented it to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, who asked her questions, discussed it and ultimately approved it.

While Wednesday School exists at the high school level, other CSD schools have a half day of synchronous classes. Lofstrand believes this contrast is owed to different needs and environments. 

“Right now the elementary kids are back in person, not all of them, some of them are virtual. But I think our high school students have different needs,” she said. “One of the things that did concern me is the students that said they needed that time to do work, that there was so much work to do… I think the workload at the high school is different from the elementary level so I don’t think you can compare. I still think wellness is really important at the elementary level, but those kids might not be doing the same kinds of wellness activities that our kids are doing.”

Though Lofstrand heard an onslaught of parental complaints about Wellness Wednesdays, which they characterized as a “wasted day” towards the beginning of the school year, those faded as the year continued. 

“After that, I have emails from parents and parents at the SLT speak in favor of Wellness Wednesday,” she said. “So I think what happened was once school started, everyone really realized what an important time this is for our school, and it’s made me even think about next year, not in COVID times, like how can we make sure we’re supporting our students academically, socially and emotionally.”

Once Lofstrand disseminated her new plan, she “anticipated feedback telling [her] ‘no we want school on Wednesday’.” But that didn’t come. Instead, she heard only positive remarks. “So that just reconfirmed for me that we were making the best decisions for our students,” Lofstrand said.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wednesday School:

How will students know if they should attend Wednesday school?

Via an email or a phone call, teachers will notify students and their parent(s) or guardian(s) that they have been invited to Wednesday School, why they’ve been invited and what the student will be doing.

How will students meet with their teacher?

Once the teacher has solidified a time to meet with a student or group of students, they’ll send a google meet or classroom link. 

Is Wednesday School mandatory? What happens if a student has been invited, but doesn’t attend?

While Wednesday School is not mandatory, if a student doesn’t attend during the time they agreed to, the administration will get involved and follow up with them to discover whether something happened or if more support is needed. 

How do teachers decide how to use Wednesday School and who to invite?

Each teacher has leeway to decide how they would like to use Wednesday School and how to divide students into their three hour blocks. Teachers will assign students based on importance and how they see fit. Meetings can range from one-on-one time to tutoring sessions. 

What times can students be assigned to?

Wednesday School is divided into three block periods that each last for an hour. The blocks will start at 9, 10 and 11 a.m.

What if students have schedule complications and are unable to attend a session?

If a student needs to meet with more than one teacher and can’t, the teacher would schedule time to meet the following Wednesday. “We can’t have one student in one class for three hours, it really is one hour blocks,” Lofstrand said. 

What should a student do if they need help in more than three classes?

Principal Lofstrand suggests students prioritize the classes they need the most help in, depending on what the help is for. For example, making up a summative would be more pressing than tutoring.

How many students will participate in Wednesday School?

According to Principal Lofstrand, “The majority of students will probably have the whole day, but at least it’s a structured time for kids that have to make up assignments to have that time.”

What will happen to clubs and extracurriculars that would normally happen on Wednesday morning?

Clubs and extracurriculars will instead be rescheduled between 1:00 and 4:00 in order to allow for students to go to Wednesday School sessions. 

 

Do you have more questions? Please contact the writers at 94alexsieg@csdecatur.net and 25adritiro@csdecatur.net with them!