Petition against new schedule gains over 2500 signatures


Over the weekend, a petition against a new schedule created by Guilford County Schools has been shared and signed over 2,000 times. Students are worried about the teachers taking advantage of the new schedule and assigning a greater workload while still spending an estimated seven hours in front of screens.

In response to the decision to push back the date for students to return to in-person school, Guilford County Schools released a new mandatory schedule. The schedule would be similar to the original plan for returning to school, in which students would attend all of their classes every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. all week.

This is the proposed schedule for the remainder of the school year. A petition against the schedule has gathered more than two thousand signatures. (Click to enlarge)
This is the schedule that was implemented from the beginning of second quarter up until Jan. 20th. This schedule allows students flexibility throughout the week. (Click to enlarge)

The schedule in particular has upset students because of how long students would be expected to be in front of a screen, which equates to around seven hours, as opposed to the original schedule, in which students attended their classes for four hours at a time, with a weekday to use to catch up on missing work. Many students have expressed concerns about the change in the schedule.

Sophomore Sheldon Ulmer started an online petition that raised support to terminate the new schedule. This petition has over 2,500 signatures at the time of writing, and is well on its way to its goal of 5,000 signatures.

“I wrote this petition on Sunday (Jan. 17) (at) around 7:30 p.m.,” Ulmer said. “There were many reasons for writing it, the main one being mental health. I worry about how students, teachers and parents are handling the pandemic and online school. When GCS announced the extra live instruction time, I was frustrated. I felt like they weren’t listening to the people impacted by these new schedules.”

The main concerns of most students were about mental health, physical health and the ability to have free time outside of school, as well as students’ general feeling of being overwhelmed by assignments.

“I was overwhelmed with work. It felt like every time I finished an assignment, another one would pop right back up. School started getting to me in the worst way possible. I decided it was time for a change and time for the students’ voices to be heard,” Ulmer said.

Many students had various reasons of their own for signing the petition.

“I signed the petition because I think that the new schedule is going to increase mental health issues as well as make kids feel more distanced and less likely to participate in class,” sophomore Chloe Cole said.

The new schedule, for some, feels more structured, which makes learning online much easier and manageable, which seems to be the purpose of the schedule’s formatting. 

“The new schedule will hopefully give me a basis for a daily routine which I’ve been trying to do for a while, but I do slightly worry about the amount of time we’ll be stuck sitting and doing work digitally,” sophomore Sophia Sizer said.

There are some issues that students believe will be intensified because of this new schedule.

“I feel that the teachers and administrators were doing a fine job getting information, homework and resources to students (than) before,” sophomore Ethan Julian said. “What would change with this questionable overhaul of the schedule is the student body no longer having the option of a flexible working home life, not to mention the strain this would put on families whose internet bandwidth is limited, among other things.”

Some students who have made plans ahead of the new schedule’s announcement have had to scramble to adjust their prior engagements to fit the new schedule.

“The school told us that the schedule wouldn’t change again, so I changed my work schedule and made appointments during our off days and hours, and now with less than a week of notice, they changed the schedule,” senior Rachel Steele said. “Now school interferes with work and my appointments that I can’t easily change. At least a little bit of notice next time would’ve made people less angry.”

This, along with personal issues students have to deal with at home, is a guaranteed recipe for stress and overwork.

“They need to take into consideration people’s home life. A lot of kids have other siblings doing school during the same time,” senior Audrey Mills said. “As an older sibling, I have to help out during the week, so I can’t just sit on a computer for six hours and not be expected to do anything else throughout the day.”

As an older sibling, I have to help out during the week, so I can’t just sit on a computer for six hours and not be expected to do anything else throughout the day.”

— Audrey Mills

The new schedule is seen as something that is time consuming, enough for students to believe they won’t have time to attend to their own health.

“The last schedule change was way easier to adapt to due to us only having three classes a day, four days a week. It gave me time to do homework and enjoy free time. I was able to focus more and get my assignments in on time. With this new schedule, I feel like I’ll lose interest faster (and) struggle with keeping up in class and with assignments,” junior Chelsea Williams said.

This lack of free time for students is detrimental to their ability to take care of themselves as well.

“I feel like I have less time to do things in the day, like (being able to) shower, eat (and) do homework, and I definitely won’t be able to find time if I’m sitting at my computer for seven hours a day,” junior Brenna Murphy said.

Not all students believe the schedule will cause problems, but it depends on the staff’s implementation of the schedule.

“(It) will certainly feel like there will be more (work), since we’ll be having all the classes in one day, but it really depends on how the teachers function in reference to the new schedule,” Sizer said. “I totally understand that they have to make some sacrifices in order to have a schedule that will function both in person and for online school, but it does raise certain concerns with things like mental and general health.”

Students know that ultimately, it is not the teachers who have made the decision about the new schedule, but the fear of being overworked is very real. 

“I do fear that teachers will overwhelm us with work. Some may not do it on purpose, and they may be struggling to adapt to the new schedule and teaching for seven hours straight,” Williams said.

After the new schedule had been released, Ulmer had decided there was something he needed to do. He was going to create a petition against the new schedule.

“I started spreading the petition by adding a link to it on my Snapchat story. I also asked my friends to post it on theirs too. It eventually caught on, and people I didn’t even know started posting it as well. I then added it to a social app called Nextdoor, which mainly parents (use). They all agreed with me and signed it and then posted it on their Facebook accounts and shared it with friends,” Ulmer said.

He wrote the petition under a pen name, Northwest Student Advocate Group, hoping to stay anonymous, but decided it would be better if he came out and said he wrote the petition. 

Other students followed along and shared the petition on social media and other platforms to raise awareness and support for the cause. 

“(I started) talking about it with my friends, sharing it on social media websites (and) through a ( link,” Cole said.

Ulmer had written the petition, but it was surprising to see how quickly many other people signed the petition as well. The petition had just crossed the 2,500 mark.

I was shocked when it started to blow up. People were signing it from different schools and from different parts of Guilford County. It was a real eye-opener to see everyone was experiencing the same problems that I was.”

— Sheldon Ulmer

“I knew I had the support of some of my fellow classmates, but I was shocked when it started to blow up. People were signing it from different schools and from different parts of Guilford County.  It was a real eye-opener to see everyone was experiencing the same problems that I was,” Ulmer said.  “I contacted all the local news networks and described the story. A couple got in contact with me, and now there are local news networks reaching out to me to cover the story.” 

Ulmer is confident that his petition can make a change for the sake of the students who signed it, but he hasn’t received a response from Guilford County Schools or the other people the petition was addressed to.

“I have not heard anything from GCS yet. I am in high hopes that they will want to talk soon about possible solutions and ways we can achieve excellence,” Ulmer said. “Students need to be the main priority right now, and I think if they really want us to be successful they will listen to the voices that signed the petition.”

Students are hopeful and determined to stop the new schedule from being implemented for the sake of their mental, emotional and physical well-being. 

“We will not stop fighting until we get this new schedule terminated,” Williams said.

You can view the link to the petition here: