Two-thirds of Evanston Township High School students feel “highly stressed during remote learning,” according to a survey conducted by the ETHS Student Union.

The survey’s organizers concluded that most students “understand why remote learning is necessary right now,” due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the report recommends some changes in how remote learning is handled in order to “reduce some student stress.”

Nearly 600 of the high school’s 3700 students responded to this survey, which was separate from one conducted by District 202 that quizzed parents and staff as well as students.

On a scale of 1-10, from no stress caused by remote learning to a lot of stress, 67% of students responded with a seven or higher.

According to the survey’s authors, “juniors and seniors in particular are feeling overwhelmed with work and screen time.”

The Student Union is recommending a reduction in “homework time/workload” to no more than three-to-four hours of homework combined per week for all classes. The survey found that 82% of students have at at least four hours of homework per week, with 15% saying they have more than 10 hours.

One of the survey’s findings seems to contradict, at least somewhat, the recommendation for less homework. Asked “Does the amount of homework seem manageable to you?” 58% replied “yes.”

The Student Union acknowledges that remote learning is not the only cause of student stress. Other issues include the election, race relations/Black Lives Matter, and the pandemic, which “all have affected student well-being.”

Students also “overwhelmingly reported turning screens on should be optional” during remote learning. “Student Union believes that while turning on cameras can help build community,” the report concludes, “it should not be required due to safety/privacy concerns for students and their families.” The report does not explain what types of safety and privacy concerns occur as a result of having computer screens on during a remote learning session.

The Union also recommends fewer lectures and more interactive activities during e-learning, as well as small breaks during remote classes. The report also asks that teachers “be mindful of everyday stresses” from other issues in society while planning lessons, and not have tests or major projects due right after a holiday, long weekend, or “major historical events.”

Many students were upset at having exams the day after Election Day, and felt it was “not appropriate to assess students the day after such a momentous occasion, but rather use the event to check in with students’ social-emotional well-being or plan something more engaging and lower stakes.”

ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and Principal Marcus Campbell will discuss the survey and potential responses during the next edition of the school’s “E-Town Live” YouTube broadcast on Nov. 20.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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